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Disease in The News Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Feb 7th, 2019

“Understand Your Global Crisis: What the AIDS industry might learn from the population story” (Foley, E. E. & Hendrixson, A., 2009)

Ellen E. Foley, originally from Fenton in Michigan is a renowned medical anthropologist in America. She got her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Kalamazoo College. It is here that she graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Foley went ahead to do her doctoral work in Anthropology at Michigan State University. Since 1992, Ellen has traveled quite often to Senegal where she initiated research on health reform as well as women’s health.

Her major interest was to establish how social differentiation may affect people’s patterns of seeking health through behavioral methods. In 2006, Foley was offered a job at Clark University where she has worked up to date in the International Development, Community, and Environment Department. Her topics of interest for research include; sexual health, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS.

Anne Hendrixson, on the other hand, works with William Fisher on dams and displacement research. She has had an opportunity to be the moderator of a panel on the “Politics of population control” at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program. Anne published an article with the Population and Development at Hampshire College which was entitled “What’s Wrong with the Demographic Dividend Concept?”

Both Prof. Foley and Anne are affiliated to the International Center for Research on Women of Clark University and they do write articles for publications. In 2009, they co-authored a journal for the aids2031 Organization, which they are part of, entitled “Know Your Global Crisis: What the AIDS industry might learn from the population story”. In deed, the title reflects two distinct fields which they each represent! Their article was reviewed by the aids2031 Social Drivers Working Group.

This essay seeks to critically present the content of the article written by Ellen Foley and Anne Hendrixson. This article centers on AIDS, the infamous disease of the 20th and 21st centuries that has kept all parts of world on their toes. The writing will then offer a conclusion regarding the article in general.

The paper by Foley and Hendrixson mainly focuses on the need to place AIDS on a historical perspective just the same way as population is analyzed by the basis of periodic trends. It emphasizes the concept of addressing and responding to the AIDS pandemic on account of historic pandemics. This idea, according to the article, is informed by the way the world responded to the global crisis experienced just before AIDS, the population problem.

The paper juxtaposes the relationship between the two problems. They; have a global scope, pose threats to global stability, are influenced by crisis intervention and short-term emergency solutions, are both countered by a unified, global solution, can be addressed through collective expertise of a high-profile group of specialists from all over the globe, and can be overcome with international consensus and global resolution for action. This indicates that AIDS and population share a global crisis problematization despite their uniqueness.

The article asserts that the implications of the two problems could be complete opposites. The demographic assumptions made concerning overpopulation might turn out to be false depending on the rate at which the population stabilizes. However, regardless of how one may view the AIDS pandemic, it remains a problem. Proving the epidemiological and demographic consequences of AIDS false is unheard of even if its cure is found or on the prospect of historical perception.

The article seeks to achieve two major objectives. First, it aims to put AIDS within the post-WWII international development industry in order to anticipate its probable trajectory. The second goal is to speculate on future patterns for responding to the AIDS pandemic with reference to insights obtained from historical narratives.

Generally, it examines how AIDS fits within the context of 20th century global crises management, the construction of global consensus in addressing global problems, and how the response to AIDS pandemic depends largely on international development norms and conventions. With an aim of offering precautionary suggestions for future responses to AIDS, the paper analyzes the loss of momentum of the population movement post-Cairo.

The article starts by analyzing the genesis of overpopulation which was immediately after WWII. Experts of the time are quoted to have termed the crisis a population explosion and were regarded by First World as a threat to world democracy and cause a litany of other problems. The population was then subsequently problematized along gender and racial lines. It was concluded, according to the article, that the fertility rates of the brown women from Third World were directly responsible for the population crisis.

It goes ahead to illustrate how policy measures were proposed to combat the crisis, first by activists and later by the U. S. federal government through overwhelming spending of responsible agencies of the U. N. and private sectors. Subsequent steps introduced new ways of population reduction to even targeting women’s fertility despite the side effects. Since 1954, the discussions of population crisis during UN meetings are said to have taken center-stage up until 1994.

The International Conference on Population and Development of 1994 which was dabbed “Cairo conference” was seen as the culmination of the preceding meetings. This is because, according to the article, there was a paradigm shift in the approach to the population crisis although the objective remained the same-to reduce population. A Program of Action was rolled out during the conference.

However, the optimistic Cairo Consensus did not achieve what was expected and the advocates have cited many loopholes in the implementation process which include lack of funding, emerging crises like HIV/AIDS, and diminished rationale to fight the crisis. The article provides an evaluation of the Cairo Consensus to find out if there was more than is obvious that impeded its implementation. Various views reveal that the problematization of population was false and hence the proposed solutions were equally false.

The article then focuses on the relationship between the experiences of the Cairo consensus and the population narrative and the response to AIDS. The article notes that the response accorded a global crisis relies on the constant sense of crisis in order to sustain programmatic infrastructure and dedication of resources.

Therefore, the authors observe, the earlier pointed out differences between problematization of AIDS and population does not alter the fact that response to AIDS would encounter similar infrastructural challenges as population crisis did. This is the central objective of the article.

The historical perspective of AIDS and when it became a problem is considered in the second part of the article. It traces the detection of HIV viruses detected in blood samples collected from Equatorial Africa to the 1950s. The symptoms were later to be referred to as AIDS in the early 1980s. This revelation especially in the United States of America was met with a sense of urgency and resources were mobilized to counter the pandemic after it was acknowledged that it would not be a one man’s disease.

Activism from all quarters made the crisis to take on a global dimension and soon global response was looming. In 1999, AIDS was declared a threat to national security in the US. A year later, the article points out that the then Vice President Al Gore convinced the UN Security Council to declare AIDS a threat to the global security.

This marked the beginning of global problematization of AIDS, which is just the same trend that population was problematized. The article critically analyzes the tactic used to galvanize global response through the emphasis given to the pandemic as affecting populations in general. This, according to the article, is misguided since some populations are more vulnerable than others and hence no validity for generalization.

From the above broad analyses, we realize that the article has given a very wide perspective of AIDS as a pandemic. It has juxtaposed it with the global population crisis on an historical account. It is evident from the article that the authors have provided a global, national, as well as regional perspective of the infectious disease.

The article has succeeded in drawing a clear relationship between the responses that were given the population crisis and that which AIDS received. Therefore, the authors of this article achieved there objectives which they had set out to explore.

The article does point to future trends of AIDS response. By then, the article notes that AIDS activists were restless due to the lack of effective vaccine for AIDS, a cure, or even adequate treatment for the disease. The authors points out the reluctance that has cropped in due to the availability of ARVs which seems to reduce the initial response given to AIDS as a global crisis. They predict that, just like population crisis, soon the enthusiasm will cool down.

The article uses a historical perspective to predict the future trends but not treatment. The article hints slightly on the future of AIDS treatment through the purported push by activists for scientific research, prevention, and treatment. The first major body that was put in place to tackle AIDS was the Global Program on AIDS which was instituted by the WHO in 1987. It was given the mandate to coordinate all activities to fight the pandemic.

The essay has provided a critical review of the article by Prof. Foley and Anne in which they discussed the historical perspective of the response to AIDS pandemic as paralleled with the response to global population crisis. We can conclude that the authors have given new insight into the ways of responding to AIDS and other pandemics and how historical consideration plays a greater role in ensuring a fruitful response to disaster.


Foley, E. E. & Hendrixson, A., (2009). Understand Your Global Crisis: What the AIDS industry might learn from the population story. Journal of Aids2031 Group [Peer Reviewed] 22 (1), 1-21

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