JOURNAL ARTICLE

Global discourses and experiential speculation: Secondary and tertiary graduate Malawians dissect the HIV/AIDS epidemic

Tyler W Myroniuk
Journal of the International AIDS Society 2011, 14: 47
21970719

BACKGROUND: Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the perspectives of secondary and tertiary school graduates in sub-Saharan Africa regarding the effectiveness of government and international HIV/AIDS policies and programmes have not been thoroughly examined. When extensive monetary aid is directed toward "development" in a country like Malawi, it is the educated elites - secondary and tertiary graduates who are heavily involved and influential in the domestic re-distribution and implementation of millions of dollars worth of aid - on whom international expectations fall to decrease the transmission of HIV. Many Malawian jobs related to public health and HIV/AIDS are created as a direct result of this funding and are occupied by the few secondary and tertiary graduates. Thus, it is a practical venture to understand their perspectives on highly contentious and heavily funded HIV/AIDS issues that affect their nation.

METHODS: Qualitative data was collected in this study in efforts to discover in-depth perspectives on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Thirty-eight secondary and tertiary graduate Malawians took part in semi-structured interviews. Data was analysed using an early grounded theory approach and subsequent themes of "global discourses" and "experiential knowledge of HIV/AIDS" emerged.

RESULTS: This group of Malawians frequently responded to questions regarding healthcare and access to medicine, sexual behaviours and methods of reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS by citing and explaining the widespread, international and "proper" responses. The secondary and tertiary graduate Malawians also discussed these same topics in terms of what they perceive or have experienced. Experiential responses, such as the counter-productivity of circumcision and condoms, the overestimation of HIV/AIDS prevalence, and calls for more authoritarian policing of commercial sex work, were remarkably divergent from the HIV/AIDS discourse.

CONCLUSIONS: The opinions of this group of secondary and tertiary graduate Malawians do not always coincide with the current literature and policies. They give deeper insight into what is perceived and what may be taking place, and hint at what the future holds for their people. The widespread and divergent perspectives must be seriously considered because these experiences describe the potential positive and negative consequences that occur on the ground throughout Malawi as a result of HIV/AIDS policies.

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