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Health & Development: HIV/AIDS in Africa




Admissions requirements

Students are recommended to take Medical Anthropology (200-level) or Qualitative Methods in Global Public Health (200-level) and/or one of the foundational courses in the major Global Public Health: Social Determinants of Health, Introduction to Epidemiology and Global Public Health, or Health Systems and Management, before starting this course.

If you did not take one of these courses you are also welcome but please contact the instructor prior to the course to discuss your background.


This course seeks to place the study of HIV/AIDS in Africa in a medical anthropological perspective, enabling students to understand and analyse how the AIDS epidemic in Africa is part of broader societal developments, but also how the AIDS epidemic has affected broader societal development in Africa.

By contextualizing AIDS in people’s everyday lives, we will study how people live and die with the disease and in doing so, we will critically examine public health interventions. Students will be encouraged to locate AIDS historically, locating interventions addressed to combat its spread within a specific political and ideological timeframe. While we will use several readings from other disciplines than medical anthropology, students must take note that this is not an interdisciplinary course, its core approach forms medical anthropology. We will however, in class, reflect on the value of the various knowledges that different disciplines produce about AIDS in Africa.

Students are expected to apply their acquired knowledge and insights from literature and class, to contemporary case-studies that highlight the complexity of AIDS, and to identify the ways anthropological research can contribute to public health interventions designed to combat the disease. Students will also read one ethnography of choice on AIDS in Africa and write a review of this ethnography.

Course objectives

By the end of the course students will:

  • have acquired a broad overview of the state of the art of anthropology of HIV/AIDS in Africa which they can actively apply in a research paper and interdisciplinary debates.

  • be able to locate the emergence of specific public health approaches to HIV/AIDS in Africa historically.

  • will be able to identify ways that anthropological research can inform interventions intended to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Focusing weekly on a specific theme in the anthropology of HIV/AIDS, meetings will combine a participatory lecture and a series of assignments and student presentations around a case-study country. Each student selects a focal country and deepens their knowledge of this country through weekly assignments and one presentation. Classes run as seminars whereby thorough preparation of assigned texts forms the basis of interactive discussion on several themes related to AIDS in Africa. Students also read one book-length ethnography of choice that will form the basis of a reflexive bookreview in week 7. The final assignment draws on the acquired analytical knowledge and brings together an intervention and a social science analysis of it.


*Assessment 1: In-class participation
Weight: 17,5%, deadline: weeks 1-7
Your participation mark will be judged through the following three components:

  • Informed engagement in discussion (questions and discussions reveal preparation of assigned literature). (7,5%)

  • Attendance of all meetings (5%).

  • Engagement in all simulation sessions (5 %)

*Assessment 2: Simulation
Weight 2 x 15 % (adding up to a total of 30 %), deadline: weeks 1, 2,3,4,5,6,7 (3 preparations in total)
Learning aim: 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. Students will prepare weekly and submit their preparation three times in writing (500-750 words) for a graded assessment.

*Assessment 3: Case-study Presentation
Weight: 17,5%, deadline: weeks 2,3,4,5,6
Learning aim: Ability to apply core debates around AIDS in Africa to a specific case-study.
One seminar per week will be dedicated to exploring the theme of the week in particular countries. Four students present on the case-study of that week followed by an in-depth discussion related to the theme of the week.

*Assessment 4: Final assignment
Weight: 35 %, deadline: week 8, 2,000-3.000 words
Learning aim: Ability to use anthropological texts on HIV/AIDS to reflect on the public health rationales of real-life public health interventions.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Journal articles and textbook TBA.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Josien de Klerk


This course addresses HIV/AIDS in Africa explicitly through a medical anthropological perspective. This lens is used to discuss common public health & development approaches to HIV/AIDS.