Current research: The danger of stories in global health

By Sophie Harman

Sophie Harman is Professor of International Politics and a BAFTA-nominated film producer. She is interested in visual method and the politics of seeing, global health politics, African agency, and the politics of conspicuously invisible women. Her research has reflected these interests through projects on Global Health Governance, the World Bank and HIV/AIDS, partnerships in health in Africa, the 2014/15 Ebola response, the governance of HIV/AIDS, and her recent film project, Pili. These interests have informed her teaching on the modules Global Health Politics, Africa and International Relations, and Global Governance.

“The danger of stories in global health” published in the Lancet at DOI:

Have you heard the story about Fidel Castro and the Ugandan army? You know the one where after years of fighting, Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Movement come to power in 1986 and shortly after sending the new Ugandan army to Cuba for army medicals find that some soldiers are HIV positive. On discovering this, so the story goes, Museveni decides to be a leading example in the global response to HIV/AIDS to avoid any stigma or accusations that his military is weak. Several people told me this story when I was researching HIV/AIDS in Kampala in 2005. I now tell it to my students, embellishing a phone call between Castro and Museveni. The story gets a bit distorted as I try to hold the attention of 90 undergraduate students but does not lose the power of what it communicates about the relationship between militaries, national security, and global health. The story could be made up, another folk tale spread by Museveni or his political opponents. But it makes sense to the people who believe it and provides an insight into why militaries became a focus of the HIV/AIDS response in the early 2000s.

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