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Unit information: The Politics of HIV / AIDS in Africa in 2013/14

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Unit name The Politics of HIV / AIDS in Africa
Unit code POLIM2042
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
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


This unit examines the socio-political impact of the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and considers the root causes of the epidemic and its continuing proliferation. HIV/AIDS is no longer 'simply' a health or development issue but is instead at the heart of the 'African Crisis'. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has served only to reinforce the outsider view of Africa as a continent rife with pestilence and disease, war and misery. The 'truth', as ever, is more complex. The course aims to highlight the socio-political forces at work that have contributed to the spread of the disease. It will assess both internal (gender inequalities, patriarchy, poverty, poor governance) and external (intellectual property rights, globalisation, skewed donor programmes, low levels of aid) contributing factors. The unit will also consider the views of 'AIDS dissidents' and the validity of such views. Moreover, an attempt will be made to assess which African countries have managed to stay the spread of the disease and what lessons can be learned from such cases.


  • To provide a historical context to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and to chart the growth of the pandemic.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to assess the key socio-economic, political and cultural factors complicit in the spread of the disease.
  • Create opportunities to develop key skills such as analysis, evaluation, presentation, team skills and project work
  • To encourage an interest in and understanding of HIV/AIDS prevention in developing countries.

Intended learning outcomes

  • Awareness of the scale of the problem facing Africa at the start of the 21st century.
  • Understanding of the diverse conceptualisations of the environment and the consequences for actions and agendas undertaken
  • Ability to identify, critique and defend different stakeholder positions with regard to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.
  • Understanding of the complexity of the problems facing policy makers attempting to stay the pandemic.

Teaching details

  • Seminars with formal presentations by lecturer and focussed discussion
  • Independent Research
  • Input from the unit convener

Assessment Details

One class presentation (0%), one assessed 3,500 word essay (100%). The class presentation will allow students to engage with an aspect of the course that is of particular interest to them. The aim for the presenter is to stimulate debate, encourage class participation and stress particular themes.

The essay will facilitate additional research, enabling students to indulge their curiosity to a far greater extent. Furthermore, the essay will afford students the opportunity to display the depth and breadth of their comprehension of the major themes of the course.

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).