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The politics of HIV and AIDS


Understanding the politics of HIV/AIDS responses could lead to more effective HIV and AIDS interventions.


As the AIDS epidemic continues to outstrip global efforts to contain it, new thinking and new approaches may be needed. The application of political science and a focus on the political and institutional dimensions of AIDS responses have the potential to yield important insights into identifying key drivers of change in the response, how political commitment emerges and is sustained, and how it is converted into action. Ultimately, this could lead to more effective HIV and AIDS interventions.

The issue
A Technical Approach paper explains why politics is important in HIV/AIDS, and examines the various dimensions of the politics of AIDS:

  • how political and social history affects a country's response to HIV/AIDS;
  • how a country’s political system, the social roots of that system and its sources of power can influence the nature and intensity of the national response;
  • the political ideology and discourse around HIV/AIDS and their effect on a government's HIV/AIDS response;
  • the political incentives for tackling HIV/AIDS and their relationship with effective leadership for HIV/AIDS;
  • the influence of historical/structural or ideological basis of relationships over time between key institutions and sectors;
  • the basis and nature of relationships between the state, donor and non governmental sector.
The paper represents work in progress, and feedback is welcome. Please email the author with your views and comments.

Learning day
HLSP hosted a learning day on The Politics of HIV/AIDS in March 2006. Participants included HLSP staff, DFID advisers, representatives from organisations including the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Student Partnerships Worldwide, the Network on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Futures Group, the NHS, and others.

Download our report from the learning day or the individual presentations:

Further reading
To find out more, you can read a synthesis of the literature that uses political science as the primary framework of analysis for explaining why countries – their states and societies – have responded successfully or have failed to respond to the epidemic.


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