Dissertation Abstracts

HIV/AIDS Scholarships in Brazil and South Africa, 1990s-2010s: Towards a Comparative Meta-Sociology of Health

Author: Katito, José , jose.katito4studies@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Barcelona, Spain
Supervisor: Peter Wagner
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: HIV/AIDS , Meta-Sociology , Brazil , South Africa
Areas of Research: Comparative Sociology , Health , Social Transformations and Sociology of Development


The PhD thesis endevour is to contribute to the construction of a comparative meta-sociology of HIV/AIDS and health. Using sociological tools, the thesis seeks to explore social sciences‘ engagement with HIV/AIDS epidemic in Brazil and South Africa, in terms of knowledge production and practical interventions.

Several actors have been considered to explore HIV/AIDS activities in Brazil and South Africa: state, civil society, religious entities, pharmaceutical industry, and international organisations. However, very little has been done to explore social sciences’ responses to the epidemic in terms of knowledge production and circulation, and engaged scholarships. More important, to date, comparative meta-analysis in the social sciences between Brazil and South Africa is unsatisfactory, to say the least. Thus, the thesis seeks to contribute to bridging such gaps, considering that in Brazil and South Africa HIV/AIDS scholarships are considerably developed and the social sciences have historically engaged with national social problems, both theoretically and practically.

Social sciences’ notable development and engagement with HIV/AIDS in Brazil and South Africa is one important reason for comparing the two countries. Other reasons have to do with similarities and divergences between the two societies. As for similarities, Brazil and South Africa are middle-income countries and, in the early years of HIV (early 1980s), had similar levels of human development, general state capacity and civil society involvement. They also had a similar epidemiological profile, in the sense that white-middle-class gay-men were the most affected group. For these reasons, we would expect similar responses to the epidemic from the two countries. But reality proves the oposite. Indeed, Brazil and South Africa present profound divergences in terms of HIV prevalence rates, respectively, 1% and 18%, because Brazil acted timely and aggressively to tackle the epidemic, whilst South Africa started only recently to make effort for the implementation of rights and science-based comprehensive anti-AIDS policies. Such divergence is largely given by the fact that, although the two countries had similar levels of human development and general state capacity by the onset of HIV, due to its stronger national unity and political will, Brazil developed effective anti-AIDS policies much earlier than South Africa. Indeed, compared to South Africa, the stronger national unity in Brazil also helped to huger involvement of social scientists and their relevant research works in anti-AIDS activities. In contrast, due to apartheid and profoundly conflictive racial relations, among other factors, the sense of political community in South Africa is much weaker and this heavily contributed to the state’s retarding aggressive anti-AIDS policies for two decades (until mid-2000s). In South Africa, weak and controversial HIV/AIDS policies also meant long-time disregard of social sciences knowledge, besides biomedicine.

José Katito is a PhD candidate at the University of Barcelona (Spain). His PhD research is part of a broader project called Trajectories of Modernity: Comparing Non-European and European Varieties, whose Principal Investigator is prof. Peter Wagner. José Katito holds a Bachelor degree in Social Sciences (University of Pisa, Italy) and a Master in Sociology and Social Research Methods (University of Trento, Italy).

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