This post is in support of World Aids Day - December 1, 2008.
In the latest issue of Practicing Anthropology, Gisele Maynard-Tucker and Alexander Rodlach bring together panel papers focusing on HIV/AIDS in Africa, which were presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology. These papers discuss various topics related to HIV/AIDS in different African countries: the association between gender and HIV infections; the consequences for the epidemic of the shortage of health workers; the importance of ethical considerations in developing protocols for HIV/AIDS interventions; local interpretations of, and reactions to, methods preventing new HIV infections; and the impact of resource insecurities on HIV/AIDS programs.
HIV/AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, and since that time substantial progress has been made regarding understanding the disease. For example, there has been increasing awareness of social and cultural patterns that either exacerbate or diminish the epidemic. Likewise, researchers have sought strategies for preventing new HIV infections and developed treatment and care programs for those suffering from AIDS, despite shortages of funding for such programs. Similarly, great efforts have been made to prevent new infections, to treat those already infected, and to support those affected by AIDS. Nevertheless, as Gisele and Alexander point out, the high number of individuals becoming infected annually, the costs preventing access to antiretroviral drugs for many, along with the difficulty of creating culturally appropriate AIDS programs mitigates against our complacency.
Contained within this edited edition, Susan Fields Mead concludes that despite the progress seen in the post-industrialized world, HIV continues to threaten the viability of indigenous populations in other parts of the world. For the indigenous populations along the Ghana-Togo border, its threat is felt most acutely by the indigenous women who put their health at risk to achieve a certain level of economic and social security. Susan argues that many indigenous women assume protection from HIV through marriage and other purportedly monogamous relationships, but who then consequently engage in unprotected sex and potentially become infected. The growing prevalence of this virus among indigenous women in the border communities requires special attention from the government, traditional leaders, and aid organizations.
Likewise, Joyce V. Millen notes that anthropologists are well equipped to elicit explanatory models and local interpretations that can be used to work collaboratively with indigenous African colleagues who seek research assistance in exploring the relative effectiveness of new policies aimed to train and retain health workers.
Sharon Watson Lai, Regina Mpemi, Nancy Romero-Daza, David Himmelgreen, and Ipolto Okello-Uma argue that in order to deal with the mismatch in addressing western human subjects’ protection, donor priorities and community concerns, a space must be created in the grants and projects section of the field that includes a collaborative process. Collaborative planning does not lend itself easily to institutional budgets and timelines, but it is essential for the success of prevention programs. In doing so, they note that engaging with the local indigenous communities in the formulation of research in interventions, the principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice can be incorporated.
Finally, Gisele Maynard-Tucker rightly argues that governments need to establish a stabilization fund by imposing specific health taxes on international companies exploiting local indigenous resources. For instance, she argues that companies could be asked to pay an HIV/AIDS Tax on income earned in a country, and that those funds would then be levied to pay for upgrading health care systems and in providing prevention, treatment, and care for indigenous AIDS patients.
Together, the papers presented in the Practicing Anthropology issue contribute to strengthening prevention and care efforts of indigenous peoples in Africa effected by HIV/AIDS.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
This post is in support of World Aids Day - December 1, 2008.
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