Currently, approximately one million of the 15 million people living in Malawi are living with HIV. The first case of AIDS in Malawi was reported in 1985 and a short-term response program was enacted. It is argued that these government programs really did little to help, including the creation of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) in 1988. However, by 1989, a five-year plan was announced. Politics stunted the tackling of the growing epidemic, and by this time the effects of HIV began to take it’s toll on the economy.
In 2000, another five-year plan was established and the governments efforts in increasing knowledge about the transmission of the disease and it’s prevalence have greatly increased. HIV is most common in urban areas and 60% of cases are female. The disease has had a massive impact on children, who either contracted the disease during birth or have been orphaned by it.
Various programs created by the government and NGOs have been created to combat the disease. This includes volunteer therapy, instruction on mother-to-child transmission, and the distribution of condoms. However, all of these solutions are facing complications such as lack of funding, shortage of supplies, and human resources. In terms of culture, traditional gender inequality puts women at a disadvantage, and the stigma surrounding the disease often hinders treatment.
A medical anthropologist focused on the problem of AIDS in Malawi is Dr. Anat Rosenthal. Rosenthal “has comprehensively studied how both international and local health organizations impact the impoverished communities and villagers”, and the socio-cultural effect AIDS has on those in Africa. She is dedicated to assessing, preventing, and fighting HIV/AIDS outbreaks. Despite the bleakness of her topic, Rosenthal believes she has found her calling and gives lectures that highlight the “very gray” world of health care. She is focused on Malawi because of their staggering HIV rates in comparison to other countries.