HIV/AIDS in Malawi

The HIV/Aids epidemic in Malawi began in 1985 when the first case was reported. And that was only the beginning. Under the rule of President Hasting Brenda there was little attention paid to the rising aids crisis. Not to mention there wasn’t freedom of speech and anything sexual was a taboo topic including HIV. In less than 10 years between 1985 and 1993 the HIV rate increased in women from 2% to 30%. When president Bakili Muluzi took over in 1994, he recognized the sky rocketing AIDS/HIV issue and HIV was no longer a taboo topic. There were many factors that facilitated the issue, especially socioculture factors such as gender roles and relationships. In Malawi women are subordinate to mean socially and economically. Most married men have sex with a number of partners, they also feel powerless to encourage the use of condoms by their husbands and are even taught to never to refuse sex with their husbands (Avert). Before president Bakili was in control politics facilitated the issue because there was not freedom of speech and anything sexual was a taboo topic. There was no awareness of the disease.

This AIDS/HIV issue was addressed in 1992 with the creation of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) sites. in 1995 the Malawi AIDS Counseling Resource Organisation (MACRO) an NGO created to strengthen what VCT initiated.  Many people however, did not take advantage of these facilities in fear of testing positive. In 2010 the number of mothers increased from the 10% in 2004 to 60% in 2010. PMTCT services were also created to prevent the passage of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. AIDS is still a major issue in Malawi but there is much more action taking place for prevention and treatment (Avert.)

Anthropologist Anat Rosenthal studied at both Hardvard and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her current research is actually focused on the impact of AIDS, and much of her fieldwork was actually completed in Malawi on the social and cultural effects of AIDS. She explores how social status and other factors affect and shape the illness experience of individals affected with infectious diseases (MHERC).

Avert. “HIV & AIDS in Malawi”. Accessed 9 August 2013. Web.


MHERC. “Anat Rosenthal.” Accessed 9 August 2013. Web.

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  1. Amber Hauck says:

    Anthropologist Anat Rosenthal chose to use fieldwork to study the HIV epidemic in Malawi. She immersed herself in the everyday lives of the people who she was studying to better understand the cultural and social factors effecting HIV in Malawi. She built rapport with many of the people in the population, allowing her access to more than just their health care system. By immersing herself, she was better able to understand their everyday culture, religion, and ethnicity; hopefully being able to determine their influence on the disease. She was able to see their health care practices and how they would treat the disease, but also what would make them end up seeking health care as well.
    Applying anthropology to this specific global health problem is important, because HIV/AIDS has become such an epidemic in our current society. It also is especially important because of the delicate ways that HIV is transmitted and how it effects the identity of the person. Sexuality is one of the most important factors when considering psychiatric identity and health, and HIV and other sexual transmitted diseases can wreck havoc on these. I’m not positive that this is still true or if it’s a myth, but it is widely believed that HIV is more common with male homosexual relations. In this delicate situation, an anthropologist could see the factors behind why this is true. Also, the way that sexually transmitted diseases effect a person’s identity are important, taking narratives of those affected may help give an insight on how to treat the patients.

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