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Health & Development: HIV/AIDS in Africa




Admissions requirements

It is recommended that students take one 100 and one 200 level course in the track Health and Development (preferably Medical Anthropology) and/or one 200 level course in the track Health and Policy. The course is also explicitly open to other majors, if you do not meet these requirements 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 critical global health perspective comparing and contrasting epidemiological, political economic and anthropogical modes of knowledge production. The course critically analyses how knowledge about the HIV/AIDS epidemic is produced in the global arena but also how understandings of the AIDS epidemic in Africa are part of the broader histories and societal developments of the societies in which people affected and infected are part.
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 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 a Critical Global Health approach grounded in Anthropology. We will in class, reflect on the value, power and use of the various knowledges that different disciplines produce about AIDS in Africa.

Course objectives


  • Have acquired insight into the core components of a critical global health approach to HIV/AIDS in Africa which they can apply in in-class debates

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

  • Compare and contrast the knowledge produced on HIV/AIDS in Africa by different disciplines and different publics.

  • Develop different writing styles: a convincing line of reasoning, a book review and a research proposition

  • Design a research proposition based on comparing and contrasting evidence from different disciplines

  • Ability to distill the argument of a book-length ethnography and situate it in core debates in a critical global health perspective on AIDS in Africa

  • 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.

  • Will experiment with different presenting styles.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This class runs as seminar which combines student-led discussion with short lectures. The course takes students through the four main era’s in the history of the AIDS epidemic, discussing the interplay between science, policy and local perspectives. Each week students will examine a core approach to halting the epidemic – and examine how this approach emerged out of the interplay between scientific discovery and politics of global health (examples: death and dying, uptake of condoms, the ‘orphan-crisis’, access and activism, self-testing and mobile health). The second session of the week is dedicated to the interactive engagement of students with the literature through simulations and highlights how public health approaches are taken up and transformed or rejected by the people they intend to target. This session is completely student-lead. A group of students form fictive social networks (for example an activist MSM-sex worker group, a grandparent-orphan family, sero-discordant couples, HIV-positive adolescent support group) in a specific country and will apply country history, course literature and lectures to their analysis of the actions of the fictive actors to specific decision-moments in the network (to disclose or not, to have unprotected sex or not). Thorough preparation and understanding of assigned texts and independent research forms the basis of interactive discussion.
Students will read one historical text and one critical global health ethnography on AIDS in Africa and write a review of this ethnography.


Assessment 1: In-class participation
Weight: 17,5%, deadline: weeks 1-7

Assessment 2: Simulation
Weight 2 x 17,5 % (adding up to a total of 35 %), deadline: weeks 2,3,4,5,6,7 (2 preparations in total)
Students will prepare weekly and submit the line of reasoning for their characters two times in writing (500-750 words) for a graded assessment.
Assessment 3: Book review
Weight: 20%, deadline: week 7:
Assessment 4: Final assignment
Weight: 30 %, deadline: week 8, 2,000-3.000 words


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

A reading list will be made available a week before the course commences.
The following books will be read as part of the course:
1. John Iliffe (2006) The African AIDS Epidemic: a History
2. Ramah McKay (2018) ‘Medicine in the Meantime: The Work of Care in Mozambique (Critical Global Health: Evidence, Efficacy, Ethnography) Duke University Press


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



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 want to experiment with different writing styles.