.. I’d be watching this movie… but I am in Africa and not at home, which is filled with snow…
Clara Rubincam talks about HIV/AIDS in Cape Town and Surrounds
Clara Rubincam is a PhD student at the London School of Economics and her doctoral research focuses on the origins and impacts of conspiracy beliefs about HIV/AIDS in South Africa, specifically Cape Town. Sounds interesting? It is, indeed. We interviewed Clara Rubincam to find out more about her studies.
CTMag: Clara, your topic is “The origins and impacts of conspiracy beliefs about HIV/AIDS in South Africa, specifically Cape Town”. Give us more insights.
Clara: My study focuses on the sorts of explanations for HIV/AIDS that can be called ‘conspiratorial’ – blaming certain groups for the deliberate invention or spread of the disease – and examines the impacts these beliefs can have on HIV prevention and treatment behavior, such as condom use and HIV testing.
CTMag: What is your background and why are you interested in HIV/AIDS in South Africa?
Clara: I’m originally from Canada and I’m studying at the London School of Economics in the UK. Before beginning my PhD, I worked for the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division in Durban for several years and came to appreciate how complex the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is in this country. South Africa is a fascinating place for this case study; it’s a country where real conspiracies are a part of recent memory – I’m thinking here about the revelations coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for instance – and it is also the country where the largest absolute numbers of people with HIV/AIDS live.
The controversies surrounding former President Mbeki’s statements about HIV/AIDS also make this a unique place to study distrust of scientific orthodoxy. In a broader sense, this study examines the reasons why people might not trust certain information about health and disease and tries to uncover how trust could be reestablished. In my opinion it’s crucial to consider the reasons why people might not be participating in HIV prevention and treatment programmes. Often this discussion is dominated by concerns about numbers – having enough hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses. But sometimes the obstacles to reaching everyone in need can lie with suspicion, distrust and stigma.
CTMag: What are the myths about HIV/AIDS?
Clara: As opposed to talking about ‘myths’ and ‘truths’ I think it’s more instructive to think about where there is still confusion about HIV/AIDS. Many of the people I interviewed didn’t necessarily believe that AIDS was deliberately created by other people but they did question how HIV originally spread from animals to humans. Or they wondered how it was possible for so many more people to be infected in South Africa than in other places. The lack of clarity on these topics still causes uncertainty and distrust.
CTMag: What impact do these beliefs have on the South Africans?
Clara: Though I haven’t finished analyzing my data, to date, my study suggests that people who endorse conspiratorial beliefs about HIV/AIDS (for instance, that HIV is a man-made virus) are less likely to use condoms, and less likely to have had a HIV test in their lifetime. This suggests that there is some link between distrusting the scientific findings of the past 30 years about HIV/AIDS and engaging with certain public health initiatives, such as HIV testing, that are seen as crucial for HIV prevention and treatment.
CTMag: Any differences in Cape Town in comparison to the rest of the country regarding HIV/AIDS?
Clara: Cape Town is unique in many ways – overall prevalence is far lower in the Western Cape than in some other provinces, particularly Mpumulanga and KwaZulu-Natal. There have also been several remarkable civil society initiatives in Cape Town, such as the MSF clinic in Khayelitsha, which distinguishes the experience of people infected with HIV/AIDS from other regions. However, I can’t comment on the prevalence of conspiratorial beliefs in other regions, as my study is focused exclusively on the Cape Town Metropolitan Area.
by Antonia Heil
I blogged this clip before. Got up at 4.40 am this morning to pick up my German friends from the airport… waited and saw scenes like this with tears in my eyes. I am such a girl. Happy Monday. x
In a couple of days it’s World Aids Day… we interviewed Stefan Hippler on HIV/Aids and South Africa.
We talk to Stefan Hippler, founder of HOPE, a non-profit-organisation that focuses on HIV/AIDS
“The fight against AIDS constitutes one of the key challenges for the further development of the country”, says Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in a November issue of Business Day. This is not really surprising especially considering the total number of people infected with the AIDS virus. According to official figures over ten percent of the 49 million South Africans have AIDS, although researchers believe that it may even be 20 percent. With the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma in May 2009, South Africa has been making significant efforts to combat the spread of the immunodeficiency disease.
Same as every year it’s World AIDS Day on the first of December. In 2010 we talk to Stefan Hippler, who has been dealing with the issue of HIV/AIDS on a daily basis for over 10 years now.
CTMag: What is HOPE planning for World AIDS Day 2010?
Stefan: Personally, I feel ambivalent towards the World AIDS Day: on the one hand, it is necessary to highlight the continuing problem, on the other hand, every day is World AIDS Day for me. HOPE Cape Town will participate with its colleagues in the activities in township hospitals. We support already-planned actions.
CTMag: South Africa and AIDS – this is synonymous in the media. Does AIDS automatically‘belong‘ to South Africa? How do you assess the current situation in the country?
Stefan: Right now it automatically belongs to South Africa, with the numbers we are still in the World Cup group. Although much has improved, there is still a long way to go, too much “red tape”. And if everyone would truly claim their treatment, then the health care system would collapse. So, we are still far from being over the hill.
CTMag: A few weeks ago, I read: ” The total number of people living with HIV in South Africa increased from 4.1 million in 2001 (9.4% of total population) to 5.24 million in 2010 (10.5%). “(Statistics South Africa, Mid-year population estimates 2010) . What is the root of the problem?
Stefan: There is definitely some fatigue in the minds of South Africans. This is because often unprofessional teachers dealt with the topic in class so people remain uneducated. Teachers, who really wanted to say nothing about it and then didn’t do their job properly. Among young people, the subject is already enshrined more, but you still have to bring that knowledge from the head to the heart and thus it slides on the practical level.
CTMag: Does HIV/AIDS in South Africa rather concern the poor?
Stefan: Not only in South Africa does it rather concern the poor – the ones who are poor have a better chance to be infected and die. That is a fact.
CTMag: What can I do as a non-affected person?
Stefan: This is a difficult question because I do not think there is a ‘non-affected’ person in South Africa – everyone is somehow affected when he opens his eyes, directly or indirectly. And to respond, to help de-stigmatize, that is the task of all.
CTMag: What’s going on with the government in South Africa?
Stefan: Well, before the World Cup, lots were on the move – the problem that I see is that they cannot keep the promise. If everyone would go for a test, if everyone would sue for the right for treatment, then it looked bleak with the health system in South Africa. So, I think the goodwill is there, but that is not enough.
CTMag: Your statement on World AIDS Day 2010?
Stefan: The verbal solidarity once a year is not enough: let’s allow those who have become infected, to live a normal life without discrimination.
by Antonia Heil & Verena Lissek
Here’s more information on HOPE Cape Town.
In ein paar Tagen ist wieder Weltaidstag. Wir haben Stefan Hippler zum Thema HIV/Aids und Südafrika interviewt.
pic by fuegin.com