Princeton HIV/AIDS Workshop May 5th

This past Friday, May 5th, a number of us academic-y types met a Princeton to discuss the “Politics and Policy of HIV/AIDS.” This day-long event was meant to bring those of us political scientists who write on HIV/AIDS together to discuss common challenges for studying this topic and to look for synergies in research strategies. Scholars included Evan Lieberman and Josh Busby of Princeton, Jessica Rich of Berkeley, Sue Peterson of the College of William and Mary, Susan Sell of George Washington University, and Nathan Paxton of Harvard. David Gartner, Policy Director of the Global AIDS Alliance, also joined us to provide a practitioner’s reflections on the topics. Andy Moravcsik and Jennifer Widner served as discussants on the papers.

We tried to address some of the major research topics in the field including:

  • why have some countries responded more vigorously to the pandemic in their country than others (Lieberman and Paxton write on this)
  • what are the effects of HIV/AIDS on national security (Peterson addresses this)
  • how has HIV/AIDS challenged contemporary models of global capitalism (Sell’s work on intellectual property rights gest at this)
  • how have NGOs reshaped the landscape for AIDS policy (Sell, Rich and Busby all get at this question)
  • why have some external donors been more responsive than others to the AIDS crisis (Busby writes on this question)

The papers are available temporarily for the event on the workshop website.

What is the state of our knowledge on these questions? Lieberman has found that increasing ethnic diversity in a country leads to a lower likelihood of government response. Paxton’s preliminary work suggests that states with more capacity for organizational learning a likely to be more responsive than others to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. On the issue of national security, Peterson finds indirect links between higher HIV/AIDS prevalence and lower indices of socio-economic well-being that, in turn, increase the likelihood of violent conflict and human rights abuses. Sell finds that advocates for health and greater access to AIDS medications have been able to shift venues for discussion and create some opportunities to push for greater access to generic AIDS drugs, despite the powerful political interests of pharmaceuticals companies. Similarly, Busby suggests that advocates of a more ambitious external response to the pandemic have succeeded, in part, because they were able to tap into the moral values in a number of target countries and appeal directly to powerful policy gatekeepers on a moral basis, as much or more than a purely self-interested one. He finds that the the U.S., the UK, and Canada have led in contributions to external funds for AIDS, including contributions to the Global Fund and bilateral donations while Japan and Germany have been the laggards. Finally, Rich suggests that the access to external finance in Brazil has served to co-opt a number of NGOs leading them to become more service providers rather than critical outsiders.

This was an interesting set of papers which we think will set the stage and the bar for rigorous social science on the topic.

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One Response to “Princeton HIV/AIDS Workshop May 5th”

  1. […] Journalist Stephan Faris has a nice essay in the recent Atlantic which looks at why the Pentagon ranks AIDS as a major security threat. The piece quotes from Sue Peterson’s paper (which we discussed at our Princeton meeting last year) that found a statistical connection between AIDS and a decline in socio-economic indicators which, in turn, were correlated with increases in violent conflict and human rights abuses. Faris’ piece reviews some of the security worries associated with AIDS: what happens when you have 25 million AIDS orphans raised without much adult supervision?; the high rates of AIDS in African militaries that may undermine state sovereignty and their deployment as peacekeepers; the risks of those same soldiers passing the virus during deployments; and the general risk of instability if AIDS affects such a large proportion of the population. […]