HIV/AIDS in Malawi

In Malawi, HIV/AIDs is the leading cause of death of adults and a definite factor for the low life expectancy of 54.2 years.  During the time that Malawi was ruled by President Banda, little attention was paid to the rise in HIV/ AIDS because of his beliefs.  Due to this political view of brushing it under the rug and avoiding confrontation and implementation of programs for treatment, Malawi as a culture set HIV/AIDs aside because it was so stigmatized by the government and  thought of as a taboo topic.  After becoming a democracy years later, it was finally brought to attention that there was an HIV epidemic occurring in Malawi.  Sadly, by this point, HIV/AIDS caused mass destruction in the country’s social and economic infrastructure.  Thankfully in recent years, the Malawian government created an impressive effort to treat, educate, and prevent Malawaians for HIV/AIDS.  The National AIDS Commission (NAC)was created in 2001 and has since “overseen a number of AIDS prevention and care initiatives, including programs to provide treatment, increase testing and prevent mother-to-child transmissions of HIV.”  HIV stabilization has occurred, and Malawi is now suggested to have around 11% for the prevalence of HIV.   Several donors provide direct care to Malawi including: the World Bank, the Global Fund, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  All donors provide direct financial support for assisting in HIV prevention and treatment to the country of Malawi.

An anthropologist fighting against the spread of HIV and the impact of HIV/AIDS in Malawi is Dr. Anat Rosenthal.  Her research focuses mainly on children, orphans, of rural Malawian communities now.   Dr. Rosenthal concentrates on improving and educating the people through family strengthening projects, care projects and communal infrastructure projects.   She has done nearly 2 years of field work, participant observation, and many interviews to help shape her work in Malawi.  In 2011, Dr. Rosenthal spoke at Southern Methodist University in Texas to spread the word about her efforts in Malawi, to understand the impact of this epidemic, and hopefully gain more support and people to assist her in HIV prevention and treatment which is much needed in Malawi.


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

“HIV & AIDS in Malawi.”  Avert. 2012. Accessed August 7, 2013.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Alexis Snyder says:

    I thought it was a really interesting choice for the HIV/AIDS topic. Dr. Rosenthal’s theory on how helping out the community of orphaned children whose parents died of HIV/AIDS instead of directly helping the children actually proves to be more beneficial. The children and the community are in better care because the community office project provides a way for people to be proud of what they are doing and take pride in it as well. In order for Dr. Rosenthal to accomplish this, she uses methods in the form of research by doing field studies in Malawi, interviewing and observation.
    Dr. Rosenthal’s work is an excellent example on the benefits of an anthropological take on the topic of HIV/AIDS. When people hear about the global health crisis of HIV/AIDS, the solution I feel most would suggest taking is to providing medication to those affected and setting up clinics in areas at risk. However, as described in class material, these approaches do not often work because of the lack of information we have about a particular culture and their community. We also don’t often think first about the casualties of those afflicted by HIV/AIDS, like orphans, which is another substantial problem. These are the approaches that only clever minds like anthropologists can understand and figure out.

  2. Angela Palmer says:

    Dear Amy,

    I must say that I really hope one day we do find a solid prevention strategy against HIV/AIDS. This disease has always fascinated me, it’s so lethal and so scary. The mechanisms behind how it does what it does is so intimidating. I feel that an anthropologist can really address the problem of why HIV/AIDS is now an epidemic in Malawi. In this post the politics and uneducated people were said to be of blame. I believe with an anthropologist’s help and insight we can problem solve much better than that. I think it would be immeasurably beneficial to have an anthropologist travel to Malawi and research not only why this disease is now an epidemic but also how it has become an epidemic. This will better help us understand why HIV/AIDS is prevalent and how to prevent it. From what I gather in this post it seems Malawi has stepped up and taken responsibility for its people, by creating these programs Malawi can better itself, which I think is another immeasurable importance. When I heard of what Paul Farmer was doing in Haiti with PIH, I thought it was absolutely brilliant. The same thing should happen in Malawi. Anthropologists should travel to Malawi and join the effort in fighting this disease, not in a take over fashion though. These people will only fully benefit with self sufficiency as with Farmer’s Haiti PIH. These anthropologists need to live amongst these people, get to know them. I am now a firm believer, with weeks of this course, that culture is very important when it comes to understanding and empathizing with a disease, especially one of such epic proportions. Overall I feel we can better understand why and how this has grown to become an epidemic, and by understanding we can better treat and prevent this disease from progressing any further.

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