HIV is a major epidemic in Malawi. An estimated one million out of a population of 15.4 million people have HIV, and it is the leading cause of death in Malawi (avert). This epidemic started in 1985. The president at the time, Hastings Banda, had puritanical beliefs where he banned discussion of sex, making it hard to educated people about safe sexual habits and ways to prevent disease. This caused people to have unsafe and unprotected sex, leading to a large spike in HIV cases (avert). Social and cultural habits have made it hard to prevent HIV. The people believe that it is natural and safe to have unprotected sex, so it is hard to convince them they need to use protection in order to prevent the spread of HIV. Malawi also has six main languages, so it is hard to convey the same message in different languages to people of different cultures and ethnicities (avert). Malawi is also what we would consider a third world country. They don’t have the money or resources that a western country has to educate people on how to have safe sex, or provide free condoms for protection against aids. In the lecture we talked about women transmitting HIV to their children. Women naturally breastfeed their children, especially in poor areas where they cannot afford formula. They can give their children HIV if they breast feed, but they either don’t understand, or can’t afford to change. Some may also be confused by organizations like the World Health Organization. They tell mothers to breastfeed for a year, but then tell mothers not to breastfeed when they have aids. This may lead mothers to not trust western medicine, and they could go back to their local customs, which will further spread HIV. NGOs like PSI and Banja La Mtsogolo have both made programs to distribute millions of free condoms, as well as female condoms. Between 1992 and 2004, the use of contraceptives increased from 7 percent to 28 percent (avert).
One anthropologist working in Malawi is Nicole Hayes. She received her PhD from Boston University in 2011. Her research covers how colonialism, globalization, and democratization have lead to the spread of HIV by creating a competitive sexual economy. Many people in Malawi have multiple sexual partners because of this sexual economy, and she researches how this affects men and women differently. She is also doing upcoming research on the government’s HIV policy, including HIV/AIDS education.
Avert. “HIV & AIDS in Malawi.” Accessed August 9, 2013. http://www.avert.org/aids-malawi.htm – contentTable0
University of Waterloo. “Anthropology.” Accessed August 9, 2013. http://uwaterloo.ca/anthropology/people-profiles/nicole-hayes-bennesch