Government Response to HIV/AIDS in South Africa as Reported in the Media, 1983-1994

Based on reports in the ‘white’ press, and a selection of secondary literature, this article investigates the politics of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, focusing on debates within the government during the last stages of apartheid and the democratic transition. It examines the role of ideology and moral beliefs in shaping policy; discusses the development of policy itself, which only got seriously underway at the end of 1991; and relates what governments were trying to do to the context of South African conditions in the last stages of the apartheid era. Until late 1987, government actions against HIV/AIDS were cautious and ineffective mainly because of prejudices against homosexuals and the belief that HIV infection was confined to that group. When the government gradually began to pay serious attention to the threat, the authorities and the white electorate stacked the odds against effective action, mostly as a result of their own racial policies and prejudices. The fact that the huge onslaught of AIDS happened simultaneously with the political turmoil in which the country found itself during the 1980s and early 1990s was unfortunate. No effective action could be taken during the transition period. In 1994 the new ANC government inherited a society perhaps finally aware of HIV/AIDS as a medical problem but in denial about the social factors involved in its spread and the role of high-risk personal behaviour. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]

Title: Government Response to HIV/AIDS in South Africa as Reported in the Media, 1983-1994
Author: Grundlingh, Louis
Year: 2001
Periodical: South African Historical Journal
Issue: 45
Period: November
Pages: 124-153
Language: English
Geographic term: South Africa
External link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02582470108671405
Abstract: Based on reports in the ‘white’ press, and a selection of secondary literature, this article investigates the politics of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, focusing on debates within the government during the last stages of apartheid and the democratic transition. It examines the role of ideology and moral beliefs in shaping policy; discusses the development of policy itself, which only got seriously underway at the end of 1991; and relates what governments were trying to do to the context of South African conditions in the last stages of the apartheid era. Until late 1987, government actions against HIV/AIDS were cautious and ineffective mainly because of prejudices against homosexuals and the belief that HIV infection was confined to that group. When the government gradually began to pay serious attention to the threat, the authorities and the white electorate stacked the odds against effective action, mostly as a result of their own racial policies and prejudices. The fact that the huge onslaught of AIDS happened simultaneously with the political turmoil in which the country found itself during the 1980s and early 1990s was unfortunate. No effective action could be taken during the transition period. In 1994 the new ANC government inherited a society perhaps finally aware of HIV/AIDS as a medical problem but in denial about the social factors involved in its spread and the role of high-risk personal behaviour. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]