HIV/AIDS in Malawi

The global health problem that I chose to discuss was HIV and AIDS in Malawi. The first AIDS case that was reported in Malawi was in 1985.  Malawi has a population of 15.9 millon people who are greatly affected by HIV. There were 910,000 people living with HIV as of 2011. AIDS is the leading cause of death amongst adults in Malawi, and is a major factor in the country’s low life expectancy. Their life expectancy is only 54.8 years. Some cultural and political factors that facilitated HIV was the lack of sexual education among the population. Culturally it was taboo to speak about sex. Malawi was under the rule of President Hastings Banda for thirty years starting in 1964. During this time he paid little attention to the escalating AIDS crisis. President Banda did not feel the need for AIDS education and prevention programs to be carried out or for the public to be aware of the crisis that is going on. The government either banned or censored public discussions of sexual matters which resulted in an increase in the prevalence of HIV among the population of Malawi. After Banda’s presidency was over, a more liberal government was established in which the government supported and provided HIV treatment to the people of Malawi. The government implemented programs that focused on expanding voluntary HIV testing and counseling, prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, voluntary medical male circumcision, condom promotion and distribution, blood safety measures, and life skills education for the youth. They also promoted mass media campaigns to inform the public. The article that I found was by Susan Cotts Watkins and it focuses on public discussion for the prevention of AIDS among rural Malawians. It documents their thoughts on what strategies would work best to prevent AIDS and goes into discussion on the effectiveness of these strategies such as abstinence, fidelity and the usage of condoms.


“HIV & AIDS in Malawi.” HIV and AIDS Information and Resources. Accessed August 8, 2014.

Watkins, Susan Cotts. “Navigating The AIDS Epidemic In Rural Malawi.” Population and Development Review 30, no. 4 (2004): 673-705.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Vanessa Salmo says:

    I believe that in this case the anthropologist must have used the experiential approach. This is because in this case they had to consider many things like the how the people perceive safe sex and the related illness like HIV/AIDS. The anthropologist had to recognize how they thought about it before the president left office and how they expect to discuss this topic now that a brand new government is in place. Also with this new change in government it is important to think about how the population will react to the changes being made in their country. This could be tolerated positively and negatively by many people especially the older generations that are set in their ways and have lived much of their lives one way. The last thing about the experiential approach is how people make sense of the illness. This is important because presenting information about safe sex needs to make sense and correlate to HIV/AIDS for the population. This will allow the plan for safer sex and reducing disease more effective for public health officials. If the people do not like the way you present material or if they do not understand the correlation a new practice will never work.

  2. AnnMarie Maniaci says:

    Hey Maureen, I really enjoyed reading what you had to say about the HIV epidemic currently happening in Malawi. While I do agree with Vanessa that there are reasons to believe the anthropologist in the article used the experiential approach while studying the widespread disease, I also think that the anthropologist could have looked at it from an ethnomedical point of view. This is because in order to really understand the causes of the problem, and to find ways to solve it, one must look at it from a cultural standpoint. The disease is obviously most prevalent in Africa, so one must learn about their way of living, their eating habits, their hygiene, how they interact with each other, to really understand the nature of the epidemic. Looking at it from this point of view, we realize that many Africans have no knowledge about the use of condoms; they do not understand the importance and significance of safe sex. I saw this from my personal experience of visiting Ghana. Many of the Ghanaians I encountered truly didn’t know the real purposes of a condom or how to properly use one. This is why applying medical anthropology to the problem is so important. It allows doctors to use alternatives to aid the people of Malawi, rather than the biomedical treatments we are used to in western society.

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