Saturday, June 17, 2006

Finish (almost) Second Quarter!

I finally finished my second quarter classes! It has been close burnout term with lots of assignments and essays some of which I am still working on! Overall, I have learned alot from the three courses and I look forward to a much calmer course workload coming up (one course, 'Political Economy' in July and 'Social Policy' in October). The rest of the time will be spent on prepping for my dissertation and trying to pass through the Higher Degrees committee and finish research and get on with the dissertation.

Right now, I'm writing my final essay in HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa about witchcraft and its implication in HIV/AIDS. There have been some amazing Anthropology writers like Renyolds Whyte and Wright and Henderson who are investigating the ideas of social networks, traditional healers and how they can help in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. When you mention witchcraft, it's a sensitive subject that people would not discuss with others outside of their family or community. Statements like "AIDS is witchcraft" come out from outsiders and people within the community. People know how HIV/AIDS is biologically spread but, for a disease that holds little cure in the communities (especially where antiretrovirals treatment (ARVs) are hard to get, nutrition is poor, transport is scarce), it is more psychologically acceptable to think it is a spirit that keeps a person sick and that there could be possible ways to try to banish this spirit. In tight communities like in Uganda where kinship is strong due to ancestoral land ownership, families are collective and attempt to assist the sick according to directions of the traditional healers. They also find it psychologically healing to spend their time raising money to buy a sacrificial animal than sitting around and mourning the soon-to-be dead. As for other African communities where kinship is weak and the population are made historically of migration (South Africa), witchcraft is used more to blame for this loose knit network. Women are usually to blame for using spirits to take their community sons away and in the city, succombing to disease. This comes from a strongly patriarchal history, where men held most power within households and today this system is weakening with women working and outside forces changing the culture of rural communities in South Africa. Unfortunately, with such weak family networks and high migration for work, the spread of HIV/AIDS are less influenced by social family pressure compared to those in Uganda where families are tight knit and depend on the social network greatly. Tight social networks make messages of HIV/AIDs and prevention more believable and strong. The answer for South Africa? It will have to be creative and powerful and seek social behavioural change if they hope to see 26% HIV prevalence rate go down.

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