This paper examines the representations and emotions associated with disclosure and stigma in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, seven years after the start of the South African government’s ARV roll-out programme on the basis of in-depth oral history interviews of HIV-positive support group members. It argues that the wider availability of ARV treatment, the ensuing reduced fatality rate and the increased number of people, including men, who receive counselling and testing, may mean that HIV/AIDS is less stigmatised and that disclosure has become easier. This does not mean that stigma has disappeared and that the confusion created by competing world-views and belief systems has dissipated. Yet the situation of extreme denial and ideological confusion observed, for example, by Deborah Posel and her colleagues in 2003 and 2004 in the Mpumalanga province seems to have lessened. The interviews hint at the possibility that people living with HIV may have, more than a decade before, a language to express the emotions and feelings associated with HIV/AIDS. They were also found to be more assertive in matters of gender relations. These new attitudes would make disclosure easier and stigma more likely to recede.
Disclosure; Gender; HIV/AIDS; KwaZulu-Natal; Oral History; Stigma
This article focuses on the micro-narratives of two individuals whose responses to AIDS were mediated by their sexual identity, AIDS activism and the political context of South Africa during a time of transition. Their experiences were also mediated by well-established metanarratives about AIDS and ‘homosexuality’ created in the USA and the UK which were transplanted and reinforced (with local variations) into South Africa by medico-scientific and political leaders.The nascent process of writing South African AIDS histories provides the opportunity to record responses to AIDS at institutional level, reveal the connections between narratives about AIDS and those responses, and draw on the personal stories of those who were at the nexus of impersonal official responses and the personal politics of AIDS. This article records the experiences of Dennis Sifris, a physician who helped establish one of the first AIDS clinics in South Africa and emptied the dance floors, and Pierre Brouard, a clinical psychologist who was involved in early counselling, support and education initiatives for HIV-positive people, and counselled people about dying, and then about living. Their stories show how, even within government-aligned health care spaces hostile to gay men, they were able to provide support and treatment to people; benefited from international connections with other gay communities; and engaged in socially subversive activities. These oral histories thus provide otherwise hidden insights into the experiences of some gay men at the start of an epidemic that was initially almost exclusively constructed on, and about, gay men’s bodies.
AIDS; Gay; Health Care Professionals; Sexuality; Sexual orientation; South Africa
For more than a century, McCord Hospital, a partly private and partly state-subsidised mission hospital has provided affordable health-care services, as well as work and professional training opportunities for thousands of people in Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa. This article focuses on one important aspect of the hospital’s longevity and particular character, or ‘organisational culture’: the ethos of a ‘McCord Family’, integral to which were faith and a commitment to service. While recognising that families – including ‘hospital families’ like that at McCord – are contentious social constructs, with deeply embedded hierarchies and inequalities based on race, class and gender, we also consider however how the notion of ‘a McCord family’ was experienced and shared in complex ways. Indeed, during the twentieth century, this ethos was avidly promoted by the hospital’s founders and managers and by a wide variety of employees and trainees. It also extended to people at a far geographical remove from Durban. Moreover, this ethos became so powerful that many patients felt that it shaped their convalescence experience positively. This article considers how this ‘family ethos’ was constructed and what made it so attractive to this hospital’s staff, trainees and patients. Furthermore, we consider what ‘work’ it did for this mission hospital, especially in promoting bonds of multi-racial unity in the contexts of segregation and apartheid society. More broadly, it suggests that critical histories of the ways in which individuals, hospitals, faith and ‘families’ intersect may be of value for the future of hospitals as well as of interest in their past.
Durban; Faith; Family; Health-care; McCord Hospital; Organisational culture
This article describes the role of transnational anti-apartheid activism in South Africa, Britain and the United States in generating international moral outrage over the readmission of the Medical Association of South Africa (MASA) to the World Medical Association (WMA), which had taken place in 1981 after it had withdrawn from that body in 1976. It discusses an example of a controversy where an international health organisation (IHO) lost moral authority as a result of being accused of white supremacy and a pro-American engagement in Cold War politics. At the time of its readmission to the WMA, the MASA was controversial because of its failure to strike off its membership roll one of the doctors implicated the death in detention of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko in 1977. It details how these activists viewed the American Medical Association as having campaigned for the MASA’s readmission. The WMA’s readmission of the MASA cost the former its relationships with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the British Medical Association – a dispute which continued until South Africa’s democratic transition of 1994. With its focus on transnational activism in relation to the WMA and the effects of activists’ allegations of racism on its internal politics, this article contributes to the literature on the history of IHOs. Ultimately, this controversy shows the deficiency of international medical professional associations as ethical arbitrators of last resort.
Cold war politics; Moral authority; South Africa; Transnational health activism; World medical association
Recent scholarship has explored the dynamics between families and colonial lunatic asylums in the late nineteenth century, where families actively participated in the processes of custodial care, committal, treatment and release of their relatives. This paper works in this historical field, but with some methodological and theoretical differences. The Foucauldian study is anchored to a single case and family as an illness narrative that moves cross-referentially between bureaucratic state archival material, psychiatric case records, and intergenerational family-storytelling and family photographs. Following headaches and seizures, Harry Walter Wilbraham was medically boarded from his position as Postmaster in the Cape of Good Hope Colony of South Africa with a ‘permanent disease of the brain’, and was committed to the Grahamstown Asylum in 1910, where he died the following year, aged 40 years. In contrast to writings about colonial asylums that usually describe several patient cases and thematic patterns in archival material over time and place, this study’s genealogical lens examines one white settler male patient’s experiences within mental health care in South Africa between 1908 and 1911. The construction of Harry’s ‘case’ interweaves archival sources and reminiscences inside and outside the asylum, and places it within psychiatric discourse of the time, and family dynamics in the years that followed. Thus, this case study maps the constitution of ‘patient’ and ‘family’ in colonial life, c.1888–1918, and considers the calamity, uncertainty, stigma and silences of mental illness.
Archives; Case studies; Colonial lunatic asylums; Family-storytelling; Genealogy; Mental illness
After its formation in 1910 as a self-governing dominion within the British empire, the Union of South Africa followed a combination of English and Roman-Dutch common laws on abortion that decreed the procedure permissible only when necessary to save a woman’s life. The government continued doing so after South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth and became a republic in 1961. In 1972 a sensational trial took place in the South African Supreme Court that for weeks placed clandestine abortion on the front pages of the country’s newspapers. Two men, one an eminent doctor and the other a self-taught abortionist, were charged with conspiring to perform illegal abortions on twenty-six white teenagers and young unmarried women. The prosecution of Dr Derk Crichton and James Watts occurred while the National Party government was in the process of drafting abortion legislation and was perceived by legal experts as another test of the judiciary’s stance on the common law on abortion. The trial was mainly intended to regulate the medical profession and ensure doctors ceased helping young white women evade their ‘duty’ to procreate within marriage. Ultimately, the event encapsulated a great deal about elites’ attempt to buttress apartheid culture and is significant for, among other reasons, contributing to the production of South Africa’s extremely restrictive Abortion and Sterilisation Act (1975).
Abortion; Crime; Culture; Legislation; Reproduction; Sexuality; South Africa
Since 1974 the National Health Service (NHS) has been subject to successive reorganisations which have shaped and reshaped patterns of administration, clinical care and services. This paper uses two sources of oral evidence: a Witness Seminar with a group of administrators who attended the NHS National Administrators’ Training Scheme in the late 1950s and a collection of interviews with doctors and managers who have played key roles in the health services of Manchester and Salford between 1974 and 2007. It surveys the day-to-day interactions between doctors and administrators/managers in hospital settings and analyses what these reveal about relationships within the broader context of shifting organisational structures and management styles. It suggests that the evidence challenges the historical stereotyping of the two groups and that strong working relationships have been determined as much by the values of respect and association as by changes to structures or management styles.
Health Services; Medicine; Management; Administration; Doctors
This article examines the process by which the London physician Thomas Sydenham (1624–89) rose to fame as the English Hippocrates in the late seventeenth century. It provides a survey of the evidence for the establishment of Sydenham’s reputation from his own writings, his professional relations, and the writings of his supporters and detractors. These sources reveal that in the first decades of his career Sydenham had few supporters and faced much opposition. However, by the end of the seventeenth century, Sydenham was the object of extraordinary outbursts of adulation and had become renowned for his decrying of hypotheses and speculative theory, his promotion of natural histories of disease, and the purported similarities between his medical method and that of Hippocrates. It is argued that Sydenham’s positive reputation owed little to his achievements in medicine: it was almost entirely the result of his promotion by the philosopher John Locke and a small group of sympathetic physicians. It was they who created the English Hippocrates.
Giorgio Baglivi; Herman Boerhaave; Andrew Brown; College of Physicians; Charles Goodall; John Locke; Thomas Sydenham
The significant contribution of medicines in the introduction and spread of ‘modern’ medicine has, with the exception of vaccination, been neglected in historical studies, yet medicines have been a significant factor in people’s experiences of sickness and in their use and non-use of health services. Although medicines are implicitly acknowledged in the literature as important in the provision of healthcare, this article uses a case study of the Mt Everest region of Nepal during the second half of the twentieth century to argue that medicines have had an explicit and central role in the introduction and spread of modern medicine in this region. It also highlights the importance of travellers in the process. While this article focuses on biomedical products, modern medicine, as elsewhere in the wider Himalayan region, continued to be practised within a changing but plural medical environment. The first part of the article discusses medicines and travellers who, in the absence of biomedical services, were the main source of medicines prior to the mid-1960s, while the second part considers medicines and Khunde Hospital, which was built in 1966 by the area’s most famous overseas traveller and became not only the area’s main provider of modern health services but also the main source of medicines.
Medicines; ‘Modern’ Medicine; Medical Pluralism; Travellers; Nepal; Sherpas; Sir Edmund Hillary; Khunde Hospital
This essay explores new models of the citizen–patient by attending to the post-Revolutionary blind ‘voice’. Voice, in both a literal and figurative sense, was central to the way in which members of the Hospice des Quinze-Vingts, an institution for the blind and partially sighted, interacted with those in the community. Musical voices had been used by members to collect alms and to project the particular spiritual principle of their institution since its foundation in the thirteenth century. At the time of the Revolution, the Quinze-Vingts voice was understood by some political authorities as an exemplary call of humanity. Yet many others perceived it as deeply threatening. After 1800, productive dialogue between those in political control and Quinze-Vingts blind members broke down. Authorities attempted to silence the voice of members through the control of blind musicians and institutional management. The Quinze-Vingts blind continued to reassert their voices until around 1850, providing a powerful form of resistance to political control. The blind ‘voice’ ultimately recognised the right of the citizen–patient to dialogue with their political carers.
Blindness; Hospice des Quinze-Vingts; Valentin Haüy; Post-Revolutionary Paris; Citizen–Patient; Sound