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Health & Development: HIV/AIDS in Africa




Admissions requirements

Students are recommended to take Medical Anthropology or Research Methods in Global Public Health 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. Students are however encouraged to reflect in class on the value of the various knowledges 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 interventions designed to combat the disease. Students will also read four ethnographies comprising different moments in the history of AIDS in Africa. Besides informing discussions in class, these books also form the basis of the final paper.

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.

  • will be able to compare and contrast HIV/AIDS with other chronic and infectious diseases 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 case-studies or films. The case-studies comprise contemporary topics that highlight the complexity of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Students will be expected to prepare a 15 minute presentation on a case-study. A list of literature will be provided and students are expected to have thoroughly read and prepared these texts as they will form the basis of interactive discussions during the participatory lecture. Students are expected to actively engage in discussions. To do so students will receive assignments to help them prepare the meetings. These assignments may include the formulation of a discussion-point or question. Students will also read four book-length ethnographies that will form the basis of presentations in class and function as the main material for the final essay.


Assessment 1: In-class participation
Weight: 15%, deadline: weeks 1-7
Your participation mark will be judged through the following three components:

  • 5-minute presentation on last day of class on in-class participation assignment (graded)

  • Informed engagement in discussion (questions and discussions reveal knowledge of assigned literature).

  • In-class discussion of chapters from ethnography (prepared by students) that reveal understanding of the assigned literature.

  • Attendance of all meetings.

Assessment 2: Individual assignments
Weight 20%, deadline: weeks 2,3,4,5,6 (5 in total)
Learning aim: To compare the main viewpoints of the authors and formulate a discussion-question related to the theme of the session. Graded

Assessment 3: Case-study Presentation
Weight: 30%, deadline: weeks 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7 (7 in total)
Learning aim: Ability to apply core debates around AIDS in Africa to a specific case-study.

A group of students (3 to 4) will as a team prepare a case-study and present a 15-minute PPT on one of the case-studies, reading additional literature (both suggested and individually researched). Every week we will have one case-study presentation. You are required to search and use at least one other anthropological article in your presentation. PPT are handed in, listing your references. You will receive a mark as a group. This requires you to equally participate in preparations/solve problems, and hence prepare you for teamwork in your later practice. You will receive a hand-out to guide your PPT-presentation. You will end your presentation with a discussion-question and enter into a student-led discussion.

Assessment 4: Final Research Essay
Weight: 35%, deadline: week 8, 3.000 words
Learning aim: Ability to compare and contrast anthropological texts around specific concepts/themes.

The final essay is based on the four ethnographies read. Students will select one theme from the course (needs to be approved by instructor before week 8) and will compare and contrast the ethnographies according to these themes.


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: TBA
Books (tentative list: definitive list available one month before start of course):

  • Henderson, P. (2011) AIDS, Intimacy and Care in Rural KwaZulu-Natal. A Kinship of Bones. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

  • Nguyen, VK (2010) The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa’s Time of AIDS. Durham: Duke University Press

  • Reynolds Whyte, S. (ed) (2013) Second Chances: Surviving AIDS in Uganda. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Tayloe Crane, J. (2013) Scrambling for Africa: AIDS, Expertise and the Rise of American Global Health Science. Ithaca: Cornell University Press


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum 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 approaches to HIV/AIDS.