HIV/AIDS in Africa has definitely been a very large controversial topic of our time. In Africa, AIDS is one of the top causes of death and Africans account for nearly 70% of those who live with HIV and are dying of AIDS. Its origins have been hypothesized to come from several different places, such as a virus from chimpanzees and early to mid century medical practices that were not always ethical or sanitary. Unfortunately, although the disease has a high prevalence in African countries, it also comes with a very negative social stigma that causes many to refrain from getting tested for it. Being tested for the disease comes with many bad connotations as well. For example those who want the testing are accused of being gay, and/or practicing in polygamy and other ideas of promiscuity that can be detrimental to ones social status. Even in specific parts of Africa, such as Kenya, commercials regarding safe sex are not allowed, and to an even further extent condoms have been banned as well. This is especially prevalent in the Muslim areas of Africa, and continues to feed the social stigma of sexual activity, and thereby the topic of AIDS/HIV. Although the government in Africa is doing what they can to improve this epidemic, they are restricted by their lack of resources and funding. Unfortunately, this has even led to some unethical experimentation and “relaxed” laws in order to conduct more research that can not be afforded. However there have been some advances, such as an AIDS gel made by African and American scientists that seems to have 40% success in removing AIDS. One of the most interesting factors I came across in my research was the idea of this “Western Plot” that is intended to sterilize third world countries. This theory held by many Africans and revolves around the idea that Western civilization is attempting to sterilize and reduce African populations, therefore Western medical professionals (i.e doctors) are looked at skeptically. Culturally, this also creates distrust in the treatments and has a huge effect on the population and only increases the frequency of this disease. Therefore, although African countries receive these helping factors from their government and ours, it’s difficult to say that they make proper use of it due to the cultural context of the illness.
In an article I came across, a study was done by anthropologist Fraser McNeill focusing on why sexual behavior in these countries has not changed despite the efforts to campaign about it. He focused on commercial and other media forms of advertisement that revolved around spreading the news of this illness. He found the targets of many of these advertisements were young women, who were in fact seen as “vessels of the virus” (Doubt). This was very interesting to me seeing as how the social stigma of “sexual activity” lies mainly around young women. This study found that the use of musical artistic campaigns appealed more to young women than any other group of people.
1. MedWiser. “AIDS in Africa.” http://www.medwiser.org/hiv-aids/around-the-world/aids-in-africa/ ( accessed August 4, 2014)
2. Doubt, Jennny. “The Battle Against HIV/AIDS.” Journal of Southern African Studies. http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~mhunter/jsas.pdf. ( Accessed August 5, 2014)