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Unit information: The Politics of HIV/AIDS in Africa in 2018/19

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Unit name The Politics of HIV/AIDS in Africa
Unit code POLI30030
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Flint
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


HIV/AIDS is no longer 'simply' a health or development issue - arguably it now lies at the heart of the 'African Crisis'. However, while images of the pandemic have served to reinforce a one-dimensional outsider view of sub-Saharan Africa as a continent rife with pestilence and disease, war and misery, the reality is, as ever, far more complex. This unit provides a socio-political context for the spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, considering the root causes and continuing proliferation of the pandemic. It assesses both internal (gender inequalities, patriarchy, poverty, poor governance, indigenous knowledge systems) and external (intellectual property rights, globalisation, skewed donor programmes, low levels of aid) contributing factors. The views of African 'AIDS dissidents' including former South African president Thabo Mbeki are analysed and weighed-up: freedom of expression versus harm. Finally, the course considers approaches to HIV/AIDS governance and management that have seen some success where they have been employed and how these might be applied more generally.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Obtain an awareness of the scale of the problem facing Africa at the start of the 21st century.
  • Identify, critique and defend different stakeholder positions with regard to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.
  • Understand the complexity of the problems facing policy makers attempting to stay the pandemic.

Teaching details

One 3 hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

  • 1500 word essay (summative) - 25%
  • 2-hour, unseen exam (summative) - 75%

Reading and References

  • Barnett, Tony and Whiteside, Alan, AIDS in the Twenty-First Century: Disease and Globalization (Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).
  • Claton, Garson J, AIDS in Africa: A Pandemic on the Move (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2005).
  • De Waal, Alexander: AIDS and Power: Disease and Democracy in Africa (New York: Zed Books, 2006).
  • Cross, Sholto and Whiteside, Alan (eds), Facing Up to AIDS: The Socio-Economic Impact in Southern Africa (Basingstoke, St. Martin's Press, 1996).
  • Farber, Celia, Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS (Hoboken, NJ: Melville House Pub, 2006).
  • Iliffe, John, The African AIDS Epidemic: A History (Oxford: James Currey, 2006).