with HEARD Executive Director, Professor Alan
The former Research Director of UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD), Professor Tim Quinlan, has co-authored and edited a book which explores the gap between what governments say about the pandemic and what they do to combat it.
Recently launched, the book titled: African Responses to HIV/AIDS: Between Speech and Action, is one of HEARD’s first projects on African leadership and features a host of public and scholarly disputes contextualised by African scholars.
The book refers to the record of governments in a wide range of African countries with case studies drawing on the rhetoric of governments and the nature of leadership in Ethiopia, The Gambia, Morocco, South Africa and Zambia.
Quinlan authored and edited the book with Dr Segun Ige who did his PHD at UKZN approached Quinlan with the concept of writing about the rhetoric of AIDS as a way to examine the difference between how African governments pronounce on HIV and AIDS and how they act to deal with the disease.
‘The book was motivated by public anger and frustration in Africa over the apparent inability of many governments to act decisively in containing the pandemic and the seeming ambivalence of many African governments to the right to health and health care for their citizens. There was also a need to present African perspectives on responses to HIV and AIDS (a key concern); to show the variety of responses in Africa – the good and the bad; and to counter a common perception that nothing has gone right in dealing with HIV and AIDS in Africa,’ said Quinlan.
‘From that came the hypothesis about the ambivalence of governments; then we asked African scholars to write on the basis of their work and experience on this seeming ambivalence and ultimately the book was produced. The focus on rhetoric and government ambivalence is reflected in part of the title: “between speech and action” which refers to the gap between what many governments say on HIV and AIDS and what they actually do.’
HEARD’s Executive Director, Professor Alan Whiteside, said the book was a necessary and provocative critique of leadership on HIV and AIDS and exposed the ambivalence of Governments to the health and welfare of their people.
‘As the authors point out in the book, the purpose is to draw lessons for future thinking and planning interventions in Africa by illustrating the positive and negative consequences of the rhetoric of HIV and AIDS on the continent. We were happy to work with UKZN Press who published this book and appreciated their co-hosting the book launch. As a follow-up we are jointly planning an event showcasing AIDS-related books and material towards the end of the year,’ said Whiteside.
Drawing upon the work of other scholars featured in the book, Quinlan and Segun highlight responses from governments to HIV/AIDS since the 1980s. ‘We summarize the assessment in terms of how some governments got the plot and stayed with it to prevent large epidemics (e.g. Senegal, Morocco); some got it and then lost it (e.g. Uganda); some got it, lost it and then regained it (e.g. South Africa); some got it relatively late (e.g. Botswana) and others never got it at all (e.g. Swaziland),’ said Quinlan.
The book also features an interesting analysis from researcher, Health Communications and Media Specialist Dr John Lengwe Kunda and UKZN’s Professor Keyan Tomaselli on the contradictions in former SA President Thabo Mbeki’s African renaissance and anti-‘western’ science rhetoric. They say Mbeki promoted the distinctly African philosophy of Ubuntu yet raised the fears of citizens living with HIV but provided nothing to give them hope and assistance to deal with the trauma involved.
Stella Nyanzi, a Medical Anthropologist/Senior Researcher at Faculty of Law, Makerere University, Uganda examines Gambia’s President Jammeh’s proclaimed cure for HIV while a study by Paul Nchoji Nkwi, a Professor of African anthropology at the University of Yaounde I, Cameroon and H Russell Bernard, a Professor of anthropology at the University of Florida shows sound African-born responses (e.g. Uganda’s ABC campaigns) and also what African customs and practices in connection with HIV transmission.