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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - African Journal of AIDS Research
Title African communalism and public health policies: the relevance ofindigenous concepts of personal identity to HIV/AIDS policies in Botswana
Volume 9
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
Page numbers 297-305
URL https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joseph_Gaie/publication/233184618_African_communalism_and_publi​c_health_policies_The_relevance_of_indigenous_concepts_of_personal_identity_to_HIVAIDS_policies_in_B​otswana/links/56ea8d1208ae25ede8327637.pdf
This article explores the possible relevance of African communalism to HIV/AIDS policies in Botswana and
other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. We examine various interpretations of African communalism, which many
consider to be the cardinal insight of African thought. We suggest several applications of this indigenous
notion of personhood to HIV prevention in general and to routine HIV-testing policies in particular. This
analysis demonstrates some of the ethical dilemmas and cultural complexities inherent in designing as well
as implementing effective HIV-prevention programmes that strike a conscientious balance between protecting
individual freedoms and securing public health. Recovering past traditions (such as African conceptions of
personal identity) is valuable not only for the purpose of self-identification but also for helping us meet the
challenges and problems of today in Africa. We also suggest that the human-rights-based approach to
HIV prevention, which strives to protect individuals, is possibly incompatible with the socio-ethical ideals
espoused by African communalism. We conclude that public health programmes in Botswana and other parts
of sub-Saharan Africa would be more effective if those who designed and implemented them possessed a better
understanding of indigenous conceptions of personhood or human agency as well as existing ethno-medical
beliefs and cultural practices.

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