Busher, Joel (2010) When promoting pills is easier than pushing the ABC: a case study from Kavango, Namibia. AIDS Care, 22 (sup1). pp. 29-34. ISSN 0954-0121

One of the challenges faced by AIDS service organisations seeking to engage with traditional leaders and community elders in Kavango, north-east Namibia, has been the popular view that the messages of the fight against HIV/AIDS contradict local cultural values. However, there are indications that this has been changing. Staff and volunteers working with AIDS service organisations reported that growing numbers of traditional leaders were becoming involved in HIV/AIDS programmes, in particular supporting efforts to promote HIV testing and encourage more people to take up antiretroviral therapy (ART), which has been available in state hospitals in the region since 2005.

This paper explores one of the factors that appear to be facilitating this broadening of participation in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The case is made that increasing familiarity with and confidence in ART has contributed to the emergence of an alternative set of signs around HIV/AIDS that is more culturally permissive and is not so conducive to social representations of a moral disjuncture between HIV/AIDS programmes and Kavango culture. This has created opportunities for traditional leaders and elders to more easily resolve the tensions between the recognised need to respond to “this disease of today”, and whilst still performing their role as guardians of local culture.

This paper is based on ethnographic research conducted in Kavango over a period of 18 months during 2007–2008.

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