Injections and self-help: risk and trust in Ugandan health care

Soc Sci Med. 1998 Nov;47(10):1455-62. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(98)00194-4.


The paper draws upon research material collected during a one year long ethnographic study on injection use and a WHO funded Injection Practices Research Project, which were both carried out during 1992/1993. The paper examines the changing trends in injection use and practices in the context of the Ugandan health system and in relation to popular views about risk and trust. Generally, people mistrust injections provided at government health institutions and prefer to gain access to injections as symbolic tokens of healing through personal contacts and private ownership of injecting equipment. It now appears that the use of this Western biomedical technology is widespread at all levels of the health care system; needles, syringes and injectables are readily available in homes for use by families and untrained providers. In other words, the injection technology has been domesticated and personalized. The Giddens (1990) framework [Giddens, A. (1990) Consequences of Modernity. Stanford University Press, California.] concerning modernity, trust and risk is applied to understand the motivations behind these processes. The basic argument is that the weakening of state institutions of health care has been accompanied by a loss of trust in the treatment offered there. In addition, the massive anti-AIDS education campaigns which have warned people against the dangers of sharing unsterilized needles, have reinforced existing mistrust in public health facilities and induced families to seek care from people they know and using injecting equipment over which they have personal control. The paper concludes that changing the current injection practices in Uganda will necessitate a change in the organization of public health institutions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Injections*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Uganda