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AIDS und Ethnologie in Afrika

Suzette Heald

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This paper addresses the issue of the relative absence of anthropologists in the formulation of HIV/AIDS policy and research in Africa. Initially, taking an historical Summaries 253 perspective, it looks at the development of the main policy-making forums in the USA before turning to the more recent establishment of UNAIDS and its dominant role in setting the agenda for Africa. The implications for anthropological research are then considered in order to shed light on the reluctance which can be discerned in the discipline to get involved in research on AIDS. Turning to specific case material, the paper then examines AIDS educational strategies in Botswana to provide an illustration of the potential insights anthropology can bring to explain the success or failure of such campaings. Stressing the importance of the cultural constructions of the disease, it shows how the western AIDS message is interpreted by local populations not as neutral scientific „fact“ but as an aspect of political and ideological domination. In turn, this discussion raises the issue of the coexistence of different belief systems, especially in the sphere of medicine, their interrelations and the social contexts in which response to western messages is antagonistic as opposed to complementary.