Dr. Wouter Basson, Americans, and wild beasts: men's conspiracy theories of HIV/AIDS in the South African Lowveld

Med Anthropol. Apr-Jun 2005;24(2):179-208. doi: 10.1080/01459740590933911.


This article investigates HIV/AIDS as a cosmological problem among Northern Sotho and Tsonga-speakers in the South African lowveld. Based on in-depth interviews with 70 informants (35 men and 35 women) I show how the attribution of blame for HIV/AIDS articulates gendered concerns. I suggest that women blamed men and envious nurses for spreading the virus and that these discourses expressed women's ideological association with the domestic domain. By contrast, men invoked conspiracy theories, blaming translocal agents--such as Dr. Wouter Basson, Americans, soldiers, and governments--for the pandemic. I suggest that these theories are informed by men's humiliating experiences of job losses and deindustrialization in the global labour market. My discussion highlights the need for HIV/AIDS interventions in order to address not only women's oppression but also men's gendered concerns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / etiology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • South Africa
  • Witchcraft / psychology*