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Implementing AIDS policy in post-apartheid South Africa


  • Schneider, Helen
  • Stein, Joanne


In common with the rest of the Southern African sub-continent, South Africa is currently experiencing a serious HIV epidemic. When it came into power in 1994, the new, Mandela-led government immediately mobilised funds and adopted a far-reaching AIDS Plan for the country. However, the implementation of AIDS policy in the first four years after 1994 has been characterised by a lack of progress and a breakdown of trust and co-operation, both within government and between government and NGOs. This paper outlines the political context which shaped the development of the AIDS Policy, then examines the difficulties of implementing a comprehensive response to AIDS in a country undergoing restructuring at every level. It questions the notion of "inadequate political will" as an explanation for lack of progress. Involvement by politicians has, in fact, been experienced as a double-edged sword in South Africa, with inappropriate, "quick-fix" actions creating conflict and hampering a more longer-term, effective response. The paper also highlights the importance of groupings outside of government in promoting effective policy actions, and the types of leadership required to mobilise a broad range of actors around a common vision. It concludes by emphasising the need to develop approaches to policy implementation rooted in the possibilities and constraints of the local situation, rather than relying on universal blue-prints developed out of context.

Suggested Citation

  • Schneider, Helen & Stein, Joanne, 2001. "Implementing AIDS policy in post-apartheid South Africa," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(5), pages 723-731, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:52:y:2001:i:5:p:723-731

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    Cited by:

    1. London, Leslie & Schneider, Helen, 2012. "Globalisation and health inequalities: Can a human rights paradigm create space for civil society action?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 6-13.
    2. Gómez, Eduardo J., 2011. "An alternative approach to evaluating, measuring, and comparing domestic and international health institutions: Insights from social science theories," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 209-219, August.
    3. Nkomo, Nkululeko, 2015. "Bearing the right to healthcare, autonomy and hope," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 163-169.
    4. Gilbert, Tal & Gilbert, Leah, 2004. "Globalisation and local power: influences on health matters in South Africa," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 245-255, March.
    5. Parkhurst, Justin O. & Chilongozi, David & Hutchinson, Eleanor, 2015. "Doubt, defiance, and identity: Understanding resistance to male circumcision for HIV prevention in Malawi," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 15-22.
    6. Johan Fourie, 2016. "The long walk to economic freedom after apartheid, and the road ahead," Working Papers 11/2016, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.


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