HIV/AIDS in Sub-saharan Africa

Sub-saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world.  In the countries in Africa that are most affected, countries that account for 4% of the world’s population account for 50% of HIV infections worldwide.  A combination of factors contribute to the high rates of HIV/AIDS including social stigma and lack of education.  When someone is infected with HIV, there is a stigma associated with it.  When someone is HIV positive, they don’t want to seek treatment because they fear being ostracized by others in their society.  Also, many people are not educated on condom use and STD prevention techniques.  Another factor that contributes to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is the liberal approach to sexual activity in many of these communities.  It is not uncommon to have multiple partners in a short period of time, which is very high risk behavior for HIV.  Poverty and lack of access to good medical care also affects the HIV/AIDS rates.  Some Christian and Muslim groups have also banned safe-sex campaigns in certain countries.  Since there are so many factors preventing the rates of HIV/AIDS from lowering, including cultural and social, this topic is very interesting to medical anthropologists.

Medical anthropologist Seji Yada examines the HIV/AIDS epidemic through an anthropological perspective in this article.  Although the ethnographic model is important to Yada, his article is used to stress that sometimes strict reliance to it can be harmful and culture, political economy, and social issues do not hold enough importance.  He examines the HIV/AIDS epidemic from a critical approach taking into account social factors and the political economy of the cultures he evaluates.  Poverty is a main factor that contributes to the high rates of HIV transmission, especially among women.  Women have been forced to rely on multiple sexual partners for economic support instead of being able to get a job that would support herself and her family.  This behavior is known as high-risk behavior for HIV transmission.  Even women who are monogamous are at risk because the men they are with have multiple partners.

Thomas Goliber, “The Status of the HIV/AIDs Epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Population Reference Bureau, accessed August 7, 2014,

Seji Yamada, “An anthropological examination of the HIV/Aids epidemic,” Pacific Health Dialog Vol 6. No. 2: 310-315.

Joseph Inungu, “Understanding the Scourge of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa,” MedGenMed, (2006)


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