Week 2: The Political Economy of Disease in Africa: AIDS to Ebola

The focus of the three readings assigned for this week all pertain to ways in which disease is being controlled and subjugated in Sub-Saharan Africa, where both the Ebola virus and HIV/AIDS in particular infects large quantities of the population. The articles written by Abramowitz and Sáez focus on the Ebola outbreak that has spread to countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Nigeria, etc. Through an anthropological stance, the authors examine the primary transmission of the virus through animal-human contact. The resistance of local populations to the disease control methods that have been implemented is also discussed, in efforts to demonstrate some of the incongruences and failures of such measures thus far. It is seen that the methods used to control the disease is not compatible with certain cultural practices of the local people adding to the stress and fear that is being proliferated here. The proceedings of funeral rituals in particular have been altered as a result of disease control methods, which have lead to resistance.

This is a very interesting finding, as it demonstrates a very relevant issue that can be applied to many other conflicts that developing countries are facing. The failure of these methods demonstrates the inability of aid organizations to adapt to the needs and values of each specific country. In cases of foreign aid being delivered too often we see a single, uniform method of providing help that is constructed by outside nations that rarely take into account the diversity of such countries. It is clear that the inability of the aid organizations to gain an understanding of the concerns of the local people is hindering the success of disease control methods. The critical role of anthropologists in providing information regarding the needs and concerns of the population is evidently being overlooked, and these articles are bringing to light the importance of anthropological work.

The article The politics and anti-politics of social movements: religion and HIV/AIDS in Africa focuses specifically on HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, while examining the role religious mobilizations and Neo-Pentecostal churches play in curtailing the transmission of this virus. Upon the examination of the relationship between religion and AIDS it is apparent that positive and negative outcomes are being experienced. An interesting connection between the three articles is that they place emphasis on the exploration of alternative measures in controlling the spread of disease, other than the conventional biomedical methods. Such alternatives are of equal importance within responses to disease related epidemics despite the fact that they are often overlooked; which is exactly what these articles have intended to convey to readers.

Questions: How should anthropologist tackle the issue of being disregarded by health care organizations, and allow for their work to be acknowledged? What are the implications of secular Western nations involvement within foreign countries? Does this affect the ability of health care organizations to administer health care effectively?


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