Why is HIV a social problem

11.10.2004 18:17

Social consequences of AIDS in Africa

Christel Lauterbach Press, communication and marketing
Justus-Liebig university of Giessen

Sociologists from Giessen present the results of a four-year study in Namibia and Botswana - press conference on October 13 at 2 p.m.

On the occasion of the conclusion of the project "Social Consequences of AIDS in Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia)" funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), a symposium with experts from science and development cooperation will take place from October 13 to 15, 2004 Results of the research project are discussed. At the start of the symposium, we cordially invite you to a press conference on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 at 2 p.m. in the Institute for Sociology (Karl-Glöckner-Str. 21, House E, Room 018/19) 35394 Gießen, to meet you to provide detailed information about the results of the project.

If one looks at the global dimensions of the AIDS epidemic, one finds that AIDS is primarily a problem in the countries of the south: 95% of all infected people live in developing countries. Of the more than 40 million people affected worldwide, almost 30 million are in sub-Saharan Africa: 6,600 people die of AIDS there every day. In the countries of southern Africa in particular, the infection rates are alarmingly high. In Namibia almost 24% of 15 to 49 year olds are HIV positive, in Botswana as many as 38%. There is no longer a family that is not directly affected by deaths as a result of the immunodeficiency disease and has to look after AIDS orphans.

As part of the research project "Social Consequences of AIDS in Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia)" funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the working group led by Prof. Dr. Reimer Gronemeyer, Dr. Georgia Rakelmann and Dr. Matthias Rompel at the Institute for Sociology at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen has been intensively concerned with the effects of the epidemic on families and social structures over the past four years. The focus of interest in the qualitative study was less the medical and epidemiological implications of HIV / AIDS, but rather the effects of the disease on families, households and communities.

In the area of ​​prevention, for example, there can be no talk of containment, let alone victory over the further spread of the epidemic, in either Namibia or Botswana. Despite increased prevention efforts, the number of new infections is not falling to the extent that would be expected given the efforts made. As part of the research of the Giessen group, some key factors could be identified that can be held responsible for the failure of campaigns.

Another focus of the research was the discourse patterns in media reporting, but also in the everyday discourses of the population. Numerous patterns of taboos could be identified. In addition, it was possible to show what different interpretations there are on the individual level with regard to the AIDS epidemic in general, such as the individual immunodeficiency disease in particular. Religious interpretations exist that interpret the infection as a consequence of one's own moral misconduct and as a punishment for sins committed, right next to rational interpretation patterns with which the infection is viewed as a statistical coincidence, as a consequence of unprotected sexual intercourse, as "bad luck".

With regard to the consequences within families, the research group has described where holes in social care arise in family structures. Numerous cycles of impoverishment can be observed within affected families. The economic performance requirements of the individual are significantly increased by the consequences of AIDS. The small amount of money available in the household is used up by the death of the breadwinner or by increasing expenses for medicine and funeral expenses. With the decline in the available workforce (due to the need for nursing care), the maintenance of subsistence farming is also called into question - at least in rural areas. In almost every family there are now AIDS orphans who are taken in by the relatives after the death of their parents, which significantly increases their physical and economic burden. As a result, for example, children are not sent to school because they are indispensable for the household economy. In view of the number of deaths, the handling of death, dying and mourning, as well as the ritual performance of funerals changes, because there are simply too many.

The extended family has so far played the decisive role in coping with infection, illness and death. The sick were cared for here; here the support and care of the infected took place; orphans who stayed behind were taken in here. As a result of the immense pressure from the consequences of AIDS, however, more and more completely new social networks and solidarities are emerging that go beyond the family structures that have supported them up to now. This is how the Giessen sociologists identified the new type of family, the "emergency community", in principle a kind of community of different people, different genders and age groups who have come together to form a residential and economic community. These "emergency communities" are an example of social innovation processes that can also be observed as a result of the crisis phenomena surrounding HIV and AIDS. As a consequence of AIDS, not only are catastrophic consequences, impoverishment and disintegration processes to be recorded, in addition to the destructive consequences, dynamizing consequences are also discernible. The disaster also unleashed innovative forces. In this way, the epidemic mobilizes resources that set social innovation in motion and so will change the societies affected sustainably and permanently.

The results of the project have already been introduced into the international debate in various ways in recent years, such as at the numerous lectures by the Giessen social scientists - most recently in July at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok - or in the feedback of the results to the local community AIDS initiatives and programs in Namibia and Botswana, for example in the context of various conferences with NGOs in Botswana or the development of new prevention strategies in Namibia. As part of the symposium, the results are also to be presented to the German-speaking specialist public. From October 13 to 15, experts from German science and development cooperation will meet at Rauischholzhausen Castle, the conference venue of the University of Gießen in Ebsdorfergrund, to critically discuss the results of the Gießen research project and to advise on the consequences for development cooperation.


Dr. Matthias Rompel
Institute for Sociology
Karl-Glöckner-Str. 21 E.
35394 casting
Mobile: 0171/47 16 423
Tel .: 0641 / 99-23205
Fax: 0641 / 99-23219
e-mail: [email protected]

Additional Information:


Features of this press release:
Nutrition / health / care, society, medicine
Colorful things from science, research results, scientific conferences