HIV in Malawi

HIV is perhaps the most global health problem to date. According to the AVERT website, HIV currently effects almost one million of Malawi’s fourteen million inhabitants. It contributes to the countries low life expectancy of 54 years old, and is the leading cause of death. The first known case of HIV in Malawi was in 1985 but by 1994 the disorder had grown to effecting nearly 30% of the Malawi women. Early efforts to spread information on AIDS education and prevention were were made very difficult because of the Malawian president’s policies. At this time talk of sex was not allowed and HIV and AIDS were not recognized. This was bad for Malawians, because they went without knowledge of how to prevent the spread of disease for almost three decades. The numbers of infected people continued to skyrocket during this time due to that lack of information. By the time a new president came into power, it was already too late for many Malawians. The website says that farmers couldn’t farm, kids couldn’t go to school and workers couldn’t come to work becuase they were infected with HIV or were caring for someone who was infected. However intense efforts to increase awareness made by NACP, NAC and other organizations in recent years seem to be finally making some progress. The Daily Campus website says they have achieved their success because the government and these organizations have enacted many policies including ones on prevention, treatment, care and support services. Anthropologist Dr. Anat Rosenthal started her career years ago talking with women in Africa who had tested positive with HIV but has since changed direction and now works strictly with children in Malawi. Rosenthal could be making big bucks as Harvard medical school grad, however she has dedicated her life to the fight against HIV. The website has a quote from her talking about how if something is important enough for you, you will find it, and it is clear that she has found it in Malawi.

Avert.  “HIV & AIDS in Malawi.”  Accessed August 9, 2013. – contentTable0

Bosch, Hayley.  “HIV/AIDS Expert Speaks to Students on Campus.”  Presentation at Southern Methodist University of Texas by Dr. Anat Rosenthal.  January 27, 2011.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kiara Whitsell says:

    Hi Breanna,

    I am astonished that a sexually transmitted disease can dramatically affect a country’s life expectancy. I believe that Dr. Anat Rosenthal performed field work to create a solution to HIV. She was about to experience the everyday life of the Malawi population, which gave her exposure to their cultural beliefs and health care system. She was able to learn about the type of care and the criteria for seeking care in the Malawi community. Also, the field work allowed Dr. Anat Rosenthal to learn about the cultural barriers and social factors of preventing HIV by interacting with HIV positive woman in Malawi. I believe that anthropology must be provided to accurately form a solution for a global health problem. The NAACP was able to convince the government to enforce policies of prevention and treatment, but that is not enough to tackle HIV. I believe that culture plays a major role in all global health problems; therefore policies alone could not change the cultural beliefs of the Malawi community. Most individuals around the world remain true to and obey their culture no matter what, which is why trying to understand their culture and finding a median is very important.

  2. mackin24 says:

    Anthropologists studying to help prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs would first acess the situation and then decide which approach to take. In this case anthropologists would first look at the specific culture of the Malwi people. The method would be to ask questions concerning what the biggest common factor is and what can they do to stop it from occurring again. In my opinion, they would most likely recognize that public education on STDs would be the most effective strategy for preventing them. The government would need to fund these forms of education through schools and the media. As medical anthropologists their theory usually involves reaching out to people in a certain culture and how they can relate with them in the most efficient way. Applying anthropology contributes to a better understanding of this global health problem because they have the best interest of this individual culture and it`s community. The footwork these anthropologists do to understand the unique Malwi culture is the base for a new plan of action. They personalize a program to best suit these people based off qualitative and quantitative facts gathered. Using “cultural competency”, which we learned about in an essay this week, anthropologists can define how to treat a patient of a specific ethnic background. The essay also states that these cultural factors are crucial to diagnosis, treatment, and care.

  3. Thuy-Tien Giap says:

    Hi Breanna,

    I surmise that culturally, the Malawians women must have been stigmatized for carrying HIV since the sex talk, HIV and AIDS education were limited. The presidential policies prevented these information to reach the civilians, perhaps because having such diseases were tabooed. I also think that there were some anthropologists who worked for the NACP and NAC, which enabled understanding the culture of the Malawians. These people must have used the critical approach to educate the danger of both HIV and AIDS. It was a good change that the government progressed through efforts of new policies that included treatments, support services etc for this disease.

    It is extremely important to use globalization of anthropology to spread the understanding of HIV around the world and especially to Malawi where this disease’s prevalence is high. Works of anthropologists are important because they can offer support since they are specifically trained to look at diseases from the cultural aspects, unlike physicians, who often only suggest medical treatments to heal the physical body. People with HIV must deal with more than physical ailments; they would have to endure the social stigma, prejudices of the villagers which I assume would have a toll on their lives.

  4. Rei Gjeci says:


    I was drawn to your post because when researching the topics to discuss for the activity, I considered writing about the global issue of HIV specifically in the Malawi area. In my post I addressed the issue of malnutrition in Mali. I was able to find out that the issue in this area does only rise from cultural and social factors, but political policies can have a huge impact. In my example the northern part of the country was taken over by Islamist groups that caused the efforts of the anthropologists and volunteers to decline. The conditions did not allow for people to provide care to all the children suffering and needing treatment. I thought the example I used ties in with yours since the Malawians suffering from HIV were restricted from being educated on how to prevent the spread and caused the numbers to rise. The infection had on impact on people of all ages and of different social statuses. I believe applying anthropology to study these specific global issues is crucial to understanding the actual factors that impact the start and spread of a disease in a particular area. It takes individuals, such as anthropologist Dr. Rosenthal, to dedicate their careers and provide aid to a population who is facing an infectious disease and causing deaths. It is people like her that can have an actual impact and reduce the number of people infected by applying different methods of research and aid.

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