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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: November 2017

4 - AIDS in Malawi


If I say that we don't have people who are suffering from AIDS then I will lie.

Headman Interview #6, Balaka District, August 28, 2008

… as of now I would have been dead but because of these medicines that's why now I am found that I am alive and I am healthy.

PLHIV Interview #8, Mchinji District, July 7, 2007

As a group of men played bawo and discussed current events, one shared his ideas about the origins of AIDS and questioned whether condoms are protective against HIV infection. Shortly after, a research assistant wrote down what the man said in a diary, and I quote at length his recording of the man's claims:

The Americans are very clever. You can see that they were seeing the Africans begging [for] their aid time after time. And they [the Americans] realized that this begging was due to overpopulation in the African countries and then the “whites” made a number of meetings in order to find a better solution to avoid the frequent begging from the Africans. And at the end they decided to introduce the disease that is not curable to the Africans so that they should be dying of that disease and that's why they created what is said to be AIDS. And when they saw that the population is not going down, they introduced the condom telling the people that they can avoid getting AIDS if they use the condoms and that is a trick too. The condoms do also give other infections on their own and I have never used the condoms myself and I will never use them in my life.

To recap, this Malawian man alleges AIDS was created by Americans as a form of population control in response to African aid requests. He further claims that when the disease failed to control population growth, the “whites” – presumably Americans – introduced condoms because under the guise of protecting Africans from AIDS, condoms would also keep them from reproducing. While only one man's suspicions, the freethinking ideas shared at that bawo game offer a glimpse into Malawian perceptions of international interventions against AIDS.