Through the Lens of Bourdieu: The Evolution of Responses to HIV and AIDS in South Africa

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Katinka DE WET, University of the Free State, South Africa
The field of HIV and AIDS has transformed significantly over the last couple of years, especially with the introduction of life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) that has manifestly changed the course of this epidemic. The field of HIV and AIDS has witnessed interesting shifts since the full-scale availability of ART and the concomitant medicalization of responses to the scourge (through initiatives such as “treatment as prevention” and “pre-exposure prophylaxis”). These changes in the field constantly call for new forms of capital to be mustered in order to ensure continued legitimacy in this evolving field. In a variety of responses to the illness – from funding, to human resources for health, to activism, and in relation to the field of ethics - constant re-negotiations and reflections are vital in order to adapt to the new realities in the field of HIV and AIDS. The disease’s initial exceptionalism has framed the field to a large extent but in light of its normalization (through its medicalization), those in the so-called “AIDS industry” have to reposition themselves in order to maintain the capital and material advantages such as funding, recognition, and legitimacy, in order to remain authoritative figures in the field of HIV and AIDS. This is even more apparent in research on HIV and AIDS in the humanities and the social sciences. Whereas these disciplines were deemed invaluable during the “glory days” of HIV and AIDS enquiry marked by its uniqueness and exceptionalism (and ample resources through the deeply problematic mechanisms of global funding), these disciplines are now struggling to find their erstwhile legitimacy and influence compared to their biomedical counterparts.