LSE’s Rochelle Burgess acclaims the latest book by Hakan Seckinelgin, International Security, Conflict and Gender: ‘HIV is another war’ as a must-read. This review originally appeared on Global Policy.
HIV/AIDS specialist are often faced with a derivative of the following question: ‘Why do people keep contracting HIV?’ As a specialist in the field, my reply often begins with ‘because AIDS is actually more about the realities of life that sometimes play out in ways that make AIDS an inescapable reality’. This is a bleak response as best, but well supported by strings of evidence that highlight how social ills, rather than behaviours alone, contribute to on-going spread of the disease. As part of my defence, I also include arguments outlining the distance between HIV programme ‘ideals’ and ‘local’ realities – created by the knowledge paradigms and assumptions that underpin many ‘failed’ programmes. For some time, there were a minority of voices shouting such things into the wind—a crucial example found in bodies of work including Catherine Campbell’s “Letting them Die” which uncovers the realities of employing decontextualised western approaches to prevention of HIV in South Africa.
Over time, the value of local context specific knowledge to global HIV/AIDS policy debates has been recognised (at least, in rhetoric). The recent inclusion of civil society forums at the 2011 UN General Assembly on AIDS, and the selection of the theme of ‘knowing practices’ to headline the forthcoming Association for Social Science and Humanities in HIV/AIDS conference this June both articulate a growing willingness to engage with issues of ‘local knowledge’ as part of effective pandemic response.
Hakan Seckinelgin’s newest work International Security, Conflict and Gender: ‘HIV is another war’ makes an immaculate and welcome contribution to debates of ‘Whose reality, and whose knowledge counts?’ in structuring responses to the pandemic. Although the book’s title gives little indication of this to the reader (perhaps, the book’s only flaw), it remains a deeply engaging and often fearless champion of these aims. Seckinelgin zeros in on the knowledge base currently supporting ‘securitisation of HIV’ debates, and challenges the resultant claims made about relationships between conflict, international security and HIV/AIDS. Continue reading