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The rise and fall of HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe: the social, political and economic context

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For more than 10 years Zimbabwe has experienced social, political and economic instability, including the near collapse in 2008 of its health system. Paradoxically, this period has also seen a fall in estimated HIV prevalence, from 25.6% in 1996 to 13.7% in 2009. This article examines this development in a socio-political and historical context. We focus on the complex interplay of migration, mortality, individual behaviour change, and economic patterns in shaping the presumed epidemiological waning of HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe and explore the evolution and management of the country's HIV/AIDS response. Our assessment of the role that the Zimbabwean state has played in this development leads to the conclusion that a decline in HIV prevalence has been as much an artefact of dire social, political and economic conditions as the outcome of deliberate interventions. Lastly, we propose the need to contextualise available epidemiological data through qualitative research into the social aspects of HIV and the everyday lives of individuals affected by it.

Keywords: HIV incidencel; behaviour change; qualitative research; social theory; socio-economic and political issues; southern Africa

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Social Science,The University of Queensland, Campbell RoadSt Lucia Qld4072, Australia

Publication date: 2011-09-01

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