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From both sides of the bed : a history of doctor and patient AIDS activism in South Africa, 1982-1984.

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This thesis explores the history of AIDS activism 'from both sides of the bed', by doctors and gay patients, in the 1980s and early 1990s. Such AIDS activism was formed in opposition to dominant racist and homophobic framings of the epidemic and the AIDS-related discrimination that these representations caused. Moreover, links between both groups of AIDS activists have their origins in this period. This history has emerged through oral interviews conducted with AIDS activists and an analysis of archival material held at the South African History Archive and the Centre for Health Policy at the University of the Witwatersrand. Evidence reveals that AIDS activism was politically overshadowed in the 1980s by the overwhelming need to respond to apartheid. Although the Gay Association of South Africa (GASA) resisted AIDS-related homophobia, it was politically conservative, which later led to its demise, and then the creation of new, more militant anti-apartheid gay AIDS activism. By contrast, the anti-apartheid doctor organisations such as the National Medical and Dental Association (NAMDA) and the National Progressive Primary Health Care Network (PPHC) were militantly anti-apartheid, but did not seriously address AIDS in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, in the new transitional context, AIDS activists framed the epidemic in terms of human rights to combat AIDS-related discrimination in AIDS policy. Simultaneously, doctor activists in NAMDA and PPHC mobilised around AIDS in the early 1990s, but both organisations disbanded after 1994. Meanwhile, gay AIDS activists remained prominent in AIDS activism, as some who were living with HIV adopted the strategy of openness about their HIV status. On the other hand, AIDS-related stigma remained widespread in the transition era with important implications for post-apartheid AIDS activism and policy-making. Ultimately, this history has significantly shaped post-apartheid, rights-based AIDS activism and its recent disputes with the government over AIDS policy.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2004.


AIDS (Disease)--Patients--Care., AIDS (Disease)--Government policy--South Africa., AIDS (Disease)--History., AIDS (Disease)--Patients--Hospital care., AIDS (Disease)--Moral and ethical aspects--South Africa., AIDS activists--South Africa., Theses--History.