Nicoli Nattrass at the Harvard Symposium on AIDS Denial

ASRU director, Prof Nicoli Nattrass, this week presented preliminary research on denialist beliefs among young South Africans at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her analysis is based on the Cape Area Panel Study which is a major survey conducted by the Centre for Social Science Research in partnership with Michigan State University. The results show a relationship between trust in former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and denialist beliefs among respondents. Prof Nattrass has previously published on former President Mbeki's AIDS denialism in her book Mortal Combat and has published estimates of the number of deaths caused by the failure to provide antiretroviral treatment.

Update: A video of the event can now be viewed here.

The Harvard Gazette reports:

Nicoli Nattrass, director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit and economics professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, presented preliminary results from a large-scale study of teenagers and young adults there. The results, which are still being analyzed, show that denialist beliefs are held disproportionately by black African men and are far more likely to be held by those supportive of Mbeki’s health minister, who has been replaced by the current administration.

Recent research showed how damaging denialist beliefs can be, concluding that Mbeki’s failure to roll out HIV drugs between 2000 and 2005 resulted in 330,000 unnecessary deaths and the infection of 3,500 infants with HIV.

Photo by Justin Ide, Harvard Staff Photographer.

African Legislatures Project website launched

The website for the African Legislatures Project (ALP), co-managed by DARU, has been launched. The purpose of ALP is both simple and grand—to learn everything important there is to know about how African legislatures function. As such, ALP is an exercise that straddles the realms of academic research and practice – in this case, research into the operations of the legislature and what its findings suggest for African parliaments, organisations working in legislative and democratic reform and supportive donor agencies. If you wish to learn more about ALP, visit the new project website.

Urban Studies School

Jeremy Seekings is co-convenor of the first Urban Studies School being held under the auspices of Research Committee 21 of the International Sociology Association and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR), in Sao Paulo, between 17 and 25 August 2009. This School - a Winter School in the Southern Hemisphere, but a Summer School from the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere - will bring together twenty-five young researchers from around the world and a team of senior urban scholars, to address a variety of topics in urban studies.  See further

Two new articles in African Journal of AIDS Research

The latest issue of the African Journal of AIDS Research (8,2, 2009) includes two articles by CSSR researchers.  Rene Brandt (ASRU) reviews existing studies of the mental health of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Rachel Bray (SSU) analyses ethnographic data from a Cape Town township on how HIV-positive or AIDS-sick women make decisions about where to live, with whom, and where their children should live. See:

Research on Institutions for Pro-poor Growth

Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings are part of an international research collaboration on state-business relations for the project on Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth (IPPG). The IPPG project explores the proposition that political and social institutions have a direct bearing on economic institutions and thereby on economic growth and distribution. Nattrass and Seekings are conducting a South African case study of how state-business relations are shaped by the historical growth path and by labour-market institutions inherited from the past, but which nevertheless are strongly influenced by policy changes (notably black economic empowerment). They argue that South Africa's growth path will only become 'pro-poor' when institutional changes are made to facilitate a more labour-demanding growth path. This, however, would require compromises from organised labour.

ASRU endorses call for health funding

The Aids and Society Research Unit is one of more than one hundred organisations to endorse a statement calling on the G8 and other donor countries to honour funding commitments on combating AIDS and improving global health. ASRU also supports the earlier Declaration of Solidarity for a Unified Movement for the Right to Health.

Advocates for Health Millennium Development Goals Unite to Demand World Leaders Honor Funding Commitments

Activists at the IAS2009 conferenceFound: Hundreds of Billions of Dollars to Save the Wealthiest Corporations. Lost: Billions of Dollars of G8 Commitments to Save Millions of Human Lives

Cape Town (21 July 2009) -- In an unprecedented and historic show of unity, advocates for all the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have charged the leaders of G-8 countries with reneging on their commitments to health by chronically underfunding programs for AIDS, TB, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and health systems strengthening across the globe.

The coalition of advocates demands that world leaders make the health of men, women, and children around the world as important a priority as the health of banks, Wall Street investment firms, and auto companies and calls on donor governments to partner with civil society to strengthen accountability from recipient countries.

Activists at the IAS2009 conference“We are already seeing people die and families forced further into poverty by healthcare costs as a direct result of this global economic crisis,” said Dr. Lola Dare, Executive Secretary of the African Council for Sustainable Health Development (ACOSHED). “The fickle policy decisions of world leaders and national government are further compounding these problems. The global health community is speaking with one voice on this urgent need. We can no longer permit the world to be distracted by false choices — between one disease and another, between a mother’s life and that of her children, between treating sick people now, in their home communities, and building sustainable health systems for the future to deliver basic health care that can save lives.” "Investments now in HIV and health broadly are fundamental prerequisites for global development,” said Julio Montaner, President of the International AIDS Society.

Comprehending Class conference

Jeremy Seekings addressed a plenary session of a conference on "Comprehending Class" in Johannesburg in June.  The conference, organised by the universities of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand, brought together scholars examining the concept, meaning and consequences of class in South Africa and elsewhere.  The other plenary speakers were Erik Olin Wright (University of Madison), Alex Callinicos (King's College, London), Jose Alcides Santos (Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil), Satish Deshpande ((Delhi University) and Mike Savage (Manchester University).  Jeremy Seekings' paper examined the significance for the analysis of class in South Africa of the ideas about risk and indiv

ASRU's Potter fellow holds seminar on relationship between HIV and unemployment

Members of the audience relax during the breakMembers of the audience relax during the break

Celeste Coetzee, PhD candidate and Potter fellow in ASRU, arranged a seminar to develop our understanding of being HIV positive and unemployed in South Africa. The seminar was generously funded by David and Elaine Potter. The aim of the seminar was to explore the links between health and unemployment. Specifically, to highlight factors that HIV positive individuals living on HAART may have to address when considering re-entry into employment.

DARU celebrates Africa Day

Dadisai Taderera and Danga Mughogho at the DARU stand The Centre for Social Science Research/Democracy in Africa Research Unit (DARU) stand was strategically located facing the entrance to the Robert Leslie Social Sciences Building. The benefit of such good visibility only became apparent as the attention of the few passersby was at a premium: the usual student traffic in and out of Robert Leslie had slowed to a trickle as lectures had ended and students were preparing for examinations.

Large posters illustrated the work done in the three areas of DARU research on the continent. Research findings from the African Legislatures Project, the Afrobarometer and the Aids and Governance Research Project and a large selection of working papers were available for visitors to look at and take away.

Bodymaps exhibited at Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Elizabeth Mills (ASRU), Dr Hayley MacGregor (IDS, Sussex University) and Nondumiso Hwlele (Bamabanani Women's Group) worked together to update a series of Bodymaps, which now form part of the Assembling Bodies exhibited at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Cambridge University). Elizabeth Mills and Hayley MacGregor will publish findings from this collaboration in 2009 through a joint IDS/ASRU publication.

CSSR launches new project with workshop on political leadership in the AIDS response

On 18-20 May the CSSR hosted a workshop on political leadership in response to HIV/AIDS in collaboration with the Swedish/Norwegian HIV/AIDS Team and the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa (RST-ESA). The workshop was attended by practitioners and researchers from around the region who have an interest in developing political leadership on HIV/AIDS.

The workshop was convened to help shape a research agenda for a new project called What Makes Political Champions on AIDS? The project, a collaboration between the CSSR, the Swedish/Norwegian HIV/AIDS Team and RST-ESA, seeks to analyse which factors determine effective political leadership on HIV prevention in the countries of the ESA region.