HIV in Malawi

The first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS in Malawi was in 1985.  In 1999 it had a prevalence rate of approximately 16% in adults that has dropped to 11% as of 2009.  A study done by the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) determined a major reason that HIV is so prevalent in Malawi is that “Malawians continue to uphold cultural values, beliefs and practices which entail the risk of HIV infection.”  They found that sex serves a role in many of their vital rituals including initiation rites, death rites and various magical rituals.  Traditional medicine and witchcraft can also cause issues.  In some communities they believe that HIV/AIDS can result from magic, and can be treated by herbal medicines.  Where as in other cases, they confuse AIDS with traditional diseases, “tsempho” and “kanyera” which all have similar symptoms, but the last two are treated by traditional healers providing herbal medicines.  There are quite a few institutions trying to help deal with this problem, and more are trying to take into account the cultural aspect of it.  Some organizations are utilizing things like traditional dances and cultural festivals to try to deliver their messages on HIV/AIDS, or getting the community leaders to help influence the people to accept the messages.

One anthropologist working in Malawi is Dr. Anat Rosenthal.  She started focusing on HIV/AIDS in Israel in 2002.  Her research has now broadened and deals with the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural communities in Malawi, especially the impact on children.  She points out that according to the UN, “more than 11 million children under the age of 15 in Sub-Saharan Africa has lost one or more parent to HIV/AIDS.”  Her work in Malawi included, “12 months of fieldwork, participant observation and 45 semi-structured/unstructured interviews.”   Part of her work included creating different projects like family strengthening projects, care projects, and communal infrastructure projects. The projects are not aimed at the children specifically, but are focusing on the families that take care of the orphans.

Kondowe, Mulera   A Cultural Approach to HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care

Leave a Reply