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Health & Development: AIDS in Africa - A Critical Global Health Perspective


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, but Global Histories of Health, Medicine and Disease, Social Determinants of Health, and/or Medical Anthropology are recommended.


This course uses the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Sahara Africa as a case study of the Global Health and Development industry. In many ways the HIV/AIDS pandemic was a game-changer. It showed the power of patient driven global health activism and the development of health citizenship, changed the global funding of Global Health and Development initiatives in a dramatic way, tackled the power of the pharmaceutical industry and shows how medical science drives health policy. HIV/AIDS was also the pandemic that spurred interdisciplinary collaborations early on and parallel lead to critique on biomedical science’s dominant paradigms. The models of HIV care form the first comprehensive and chronic care models developed in parallel to emergency public health services in sub-Sahara Africa. This makes HIV/AIDS an exceptional disease and a good lens to study the Global Health industry with a Critical Global Health perspective. Comparing and contrasting epidemiological, political, economic and anthropological modes of knowledge production we analyse how knowledge about the HIV/AIDS epidemic is produced in the global arena. We place these knowledges alongside broader histories and specific economic, political, and social developments in the societies of which people living with the virus are part. Through ethnographic articles we contextualize we will study how people live with the disease and in doing so think through the rapidly shifting public health narratives around HIV/AIDS. Students will locate HIV/AIDS historically, and situate interventions addressed to combat its spread in a specific political and ideological timeframe. While we will discuss interdisciplinarity and use several readings from other disciplines (such as epidemiology, demography and political economy), students must take note that the core approach to the study of HIV/AIDS in the context of development is anthropological. We will however, in class, reflect on the value, power and use of the various knowledges that different disciplines, including anthropology produce about HIV/AIDS in Africa. Students will use their acquired knowledge to develop a simulation and a research proposition.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course students:


  • have acquired insight into the core components of a critical global health approach to HIV/AIDS in Africa.

  • Are able to locate the emergence of specific global public health approaches and interventions to HIV/AIDS in Africa historically and ideologically.

  • Are able to compare and contrast the knowledge produced on HIV/AIDS in Africa by different disciplines.


  • Think critically and analytically by comparing and contrasting evidence from different disciplines.

  • To be able to use course literature and other literature to develop a line of reasoning from the perspective of designers and users of interventions.

  • Is able to match writing style with audience and genre.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will use a seminar style of learning. The course will be taught through a mix of mini lectures by the instructor, student presentations, group discussion, and class discussions facilitated by students. Students will take a major facilitation and critical discussion role during seminars. To engage with the different political- economic and social-cultural contexts that shaped the history of the epidemic and responses to it in different countries, students engage in an interactive analysis of specific countries. Groups of students form fictive social networks (for example an activist MSM-sex worker group, a grandparent- grandchild living with HIV family, sero-discordant couples, HIV-positive adolescent support group) in a specific country and will apply country history, course literature, key policy debates and lectures to a simulation that is based on their analysis of the potential actions of the fictive actors to specific decision-moments in the network (to disclose or not, to have unprotected sex or not, to self-test or not). The final assignment asks students to write a research proposition based on a thorough review of (historical and current) ethnographic and public health articles of recent developments in HIV (index-testing, self-testing, AntiRetroviralMedicine ATMs, CommunityAdherenceClubs etc).

Assessment Method

  • 10% participation (assessed continually through participation in seminars and in-class activities).

  • 45% Simulation Exercise (30% total weight): Students will prepare weekly and submit the line of reasoning for their characters in writing for a graded assessment (Deadline for written assignment: Week 6).

  • 45% Research proposition (Deadline: Week 8)

Reading list


Contains weekly readings as well as independent research of websites and policy documentation.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Josien de Klerk


As a 300-level, this course expects a substantial amount of student interaction, initiative and creative and/or analytical thinking. Students are also expected to examine their own positionalities in developing the simulation.