HIV in Malawi

The global health problem I will be focusing on is the HIV epidemic in Malawi. According to the article that I will be citing from, sixty four percent of the people in the world living with HIV reside on the continent of Africa. As of a few years ago, about ten percent of those living in Malawi are HIV positive. It is important when looking at a virus such as HIV, that we are also studying the area at which the people are being affected. That means, we need to see what sort of social issues are at hand, such as sexism, racism, and inequalities are at play. It seems that as these social issues have greater disparity between the weaker of society, and there is increased discrimination, the rates at which people are suffering from such a life threatening illness such as HIV increases.

The main argument of this article is that with a goal of decreased poverty, there will come a decrease in HIV as well. It is something that must be tackled from a social and basic level of human existence (such as making sure people are getting the food that they need in order to survive) rather than looking at the virus’ numbers and starting from the top down.

The article also mentions the negative consequence that can come about from naming “risk groups” such as sex workers, drug users, etc, because it then becomes an issue of victim blaming and putting negative attention toward the people that in fact need the help rather than blame.

It is hard, when in Malawi specifically, the rates at which women are affected compared to the men that are affected is very lopsided, as many more women are suffering from HIV than there are men.

Anthropologists are trying to change this mode of thinking, and to do this there are groups that are forming to create positive change, such as fighting a common denominator issue such as poverty. There are many NGO’s that are working in order to provide health care and affordable access for people in terms of treatment for HIV, and that includes health centers and many volunteers from around the world stepping in and giving their time in order to help those that are in need of healing.

Ramin, Brodie. “INTRODUCTION.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. December 26, 5. Accessed August 9, 2014.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. shivani says:

    You have chosen a good article that explains what anthropologists are doing with regards to their work on HIV/AIDS in Africa. It also exemplifies that necessity of anthropology within global public health. According to the article you posted, they posit that there are two anthropological thoughts that are influencing this. The first are the traditional anthropologists and the second are the political economy anthropologists. The first (traditional) are more classically trained and focuses on “adding socio-cultural depth to biomedical and epidemiological understandings of the HIV/AIDS epidemic” (Ramin). The second states that understanding the structural violence (racism, sexism, inequality, etc.) is necessary for understanding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Using these two schools of thoughts has been highly beneficial as they both work best together. If you were to just use the political economy perspective, it would ignore the local culture.
    Applying anthropological theories is necessary as it provides more nuance and understanding that you may not get with a strictly biomedical perspective. In a video we watched for class, Tribal Jazzman Scholar gave an example of a Peruvian village that was being introduced to IUDs to help with family planning. The organization that was providing them did not take into account the local culture and their customs, which was extremely detrimental. The women, when menstruating, couldn’t handle food. Having IUDs increased the duration and severity of their periods so the women were being secluded for longer periods of time. In this case, you can see that if this organization had used the anthropological theories we have learned in this class, they may have not only been able to avoid this problem, but have looked at alternatives to assist this community.

    Reference(s):
    Ramin, Brodie. “INTRODUCTION.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. December 26, 5. Web. Aug. 2014.

    Tribal Jazzman Scholar. “”Medical Anthropology” – Tribal Jazzman Scholar, Episode #26.” YouTube. YouTube, 18 Feb. 2011. Web. Aug. 2014.

  2. Morgan Barnett says:

    It seems like most women that are affected by the HIV virus in Africa do not have access to treatment. From a critical perspective of medical anthropology, anthropologists are working to provide healthcare access for these women. This is part of a treatment plan for them in attempts to alleviate some of their illness and to increase their quality of life. From an ethnomedical standpoint (through the ethnomedical approach), medical anthropologists are implementing culturally specific tactics to fight poverty because they believe that an association exists between poverty level and the incidence of HIV positive women in Africa. Applying medical anthropology contributed to a better understanding of this global health problem because it took culture into consideration on some level when working on successful strategies to implement in the area. In western medical for example, we have learned in this course that we have a strong tendency to rely on biological treatments for disease. While this comes into play somewhat in the HIV methods for treatment and prevention in Africa, a combination of methods are used so that they appeal better to the culture of the people that are living in the area. This is one of the main goals of medical anthropology.

  3. Shardae Herriford says:

    Your post was very interesting it very sad that sixty four percent of the people that have HIV in the World are from Africa. The fact that ten percent of them are in Malawi is a very big number. You stated that if poverty is decreased so would the number of the people affected would decrease as well. I believe that culture plays a vital role in all global health problems. Even if policies were put into effect, alone it could not change their beliefs of the Malawi community have. Most individuals around the world remain resilient in their culture. Dr. Rosenthal and many other anthropologist dedicate their lives to decrease these numbers by find other ways other than medically to help these communities. By research and finding methods that can benefit the Malawi community. The conditions did not allow for people to provide care to all the families that had acquire the disease and provide medicine. The infection had an impact on people of all ages and of different social statuses. Many anthropologist actively pursue the question of how can they stop this progression. I think using “cultural competency”, which we learned this essay this week, anthropologists can figure out how to treat a patient of a specific’s ethnic background, the factors that are important is to diagnosis, treatment, and care.

  4. Riasia Franklin says:

    As I was trying to make a decision on what post to comment on , I found yours as a very interesting topic discussed, being that HIV is a very serious virus today and kills so many people around the world. HIV is one of the leading causes of death around the world and someone could have it and not even have signs of it until years later. With women being more prone to HIV and having it more commonly the anthropologists are taking a critical approach to provide healthcare to women. The theories being used would be that the anthropologists are finding new ways to diminish or cut down poverty which could lead to less cases of HIV, like you mentioned. The methods would be to find and research treatments or ways that the virus could stop spreading from person or person to cut down people from contracting the virus. Also, to research treatments or special vaccines that could be used to prevent HIV from happening. By applying anthropology to this global health problem we get a better understanding by knowing and developing ideas about anthropologists taking culture into consideration when determining how bad someone is ill or what could be done to cure or treat them. For example, if a patient is from a whole different country and have a different culture, anthropology helps us to look at the patient’s illness from different aspects and considering a number of options when it comes to treating someone, instead of just one treatment.

  5. Valencia Smith says:

    Reading your article, I was very intrigued by the fact that “sixty four percent of the people in the world living with HIV reside on the continent of Africa”. When I finished reading that sentence, I immediately thought about what was being done to get that percentage greatly lower. I like how you touched on how the decrease in poverty would cause a decrease in HIV in Malawi. I also thought it was very interesting how you pointed out that the study of social issues can in turn help with medical ones.

    Anthropologists are taking a critical approach to this in order to provide the right healthcare for women because of the fact that they are more affected by the disease than males. So, this shows that there is progress being made. Research is being done to get that sixty percent rating down and improve not only the health of people in Africa, but get over the many social barriers as well. Because it is clear that these social barriers are one of the many causes of the health decline in Malawi.

    It just takes that one step in the right direction towards finding better ways to treat and inform people about this terrible disease for prevention to start.

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