1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009)

The Social Ecology of AIDS in Africa (Draft)

Intuitively, we all know that people who live in supportive and caring social environments are healthier than people who do not. Our social environment has an impact on our health. Unfortunately, this knowledge has hardly ever been translated into the way we analyse and respond to epidemics of AIDS. The huge international HIV research and intervention “industry” has effectively shielded itself from social analysis and from social theory. Even today, when under the battle-cry of the “multi-sector response”, the walls of one-dimensional AIDS programmes are said to be crumbling, we often do not go beyond attempts of converting competent agricultural extension workers into incompetent condom salesmen.

If we are really serious about recognizing the social dimension of AIDS, then we have to recognize that the way communities feed themselves, the way they earn their living, the way they pray together, the way they look after their children and their elderly, the way they care for their sick, the way they govern themselves, and the way they critically examine the interventions of development agencies are all determinants of how they experience HIV and how they cope with AIDS.

Analysing the social ecology of AIDS at the level of communities should liberate us from the practice of formula feeding the latest international fad to people who have their own priorities and problems, and who are often too polite to say so. This approach apparently has not had much impact on the evolution of HIV epidemics in Africa.

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