HIV/AIDS in Malawi



I chose to look at HIV and AIDS in Malawi for this week’s activity post. I have learned about this topic before in a previous anthropology class but it is interesting enough to look again. There is a serious problem with HIV and AIDS spreading in Malawi and many cultural factors play into this outbreak. I will address a few of the topics covered by the article I read as well as what was covered in my previous class.

One contributing factor is condom use. When I first heard this I thought “how dumb is that? Do they want to spread disease?” but of course this was a naïve view of the issue. Condoms are not seen in the same way in their culture as we may see them here. If a spouse in Malawi suggests they use a condom it is seen as suggestive of infidelity. If more education could be provided about the benefits of condom use, perhaps the HIV and AIDS cases could be reduced.

Furthermore, there is an economic aspect to the outbreak of HIV and AIDS. For young women especially, if they live or move to an urban area they may find limited work opportunities. Facing these economic hardships, they may find themselves working as prostitutes just to survive. The high levels of prostitution are another contributing factor to the outbreak of the disease.

Another cultural issue however, are the marital roles in Malawi. It is a patriarchal system so a wife must obey her husband. This makes addressing HIV and AIDS for women especially difficult. Even if they can be counseled and tested, many of the women are resistant to treatment for fear that their husband will find out. They fear that if he does find out, he will suspect that she was unfaithful and got the disease elsewhere. The men are often more hesitant to be tested in the first place, and in this way they believe they dodge responsibility.

Watkins, Susan Cotts. “Navigating the AIDS epidemic in rural Malawi.”Population and Development Review 30, no. 4 (2004): 673-705.

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