Thursday, December 4, 2008

Power, Politics and HIV/AIDS in the African Blogosphere

Find a link to an interesting article by Dipesh Pabari on Pambazuka.

Dipesh participated in the male circumcision research in Kisumu as an ethnographer (I think) and is passionate on the issue of male circumcion.

Sneek preview

About a year ago, CNN and Time declared the identification of male circumcision as a preventive measure against HIV infection as the biggest medical breakthrough of 2007. Having worked on one of the studies that led to this “discovery” several years before, I quickly penned something which was published on Africa News on the 20th December 2007 (

What followed was an onslaught of comments prompting the publishers to keep the article open as a discussion. In this little microcosm of cyberspace, individuals debated the “truth” behind male circumcision as a potential preventative measure against HIV/AIDS. Right from the start it was clear that the readers of this forum were equally as concerned with the value of the science behind this declaration as they were with the power of agency and socio-political dimension that could have influenced and skewed the science in favour of male circumcision. To many this was a “western conspiracy”:

• “You need to be careful of these Americans who come to African forums to sell their ideas and to teach to the "stupid Africans."
• “Appeal to authority is nothing but intellectual laziness or incompetence. One should actually do a critical analysis of the evidence itself, and not rely on 'big brother" to do the thinking for them.”
• “.... For all the good work Stephen Lewis does he is a hypocrite in this case. He speaks against programs designed to promote behaviour change as being 'neocolonialist' yet sees absolutely no problem with telling African Men what they should be doing with their own bodies.”

Such reactions towards research in general are fairly common and well documented within medical anthropology journals and mainstream media. Four years before the article above was published, I had conducted an ethnographic study on people’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs towards medical research using a trial on male circumcision as a case study in a town in western...

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