Sunday, July 05, 2009

This blog has moved to Cape Town

From the beginning, this blog has explored emerging bioethics, research ethics and public health ethics issues in developing world contexts. But much of it has been, unapologically, about sub-Saharan Africa. Unapologically, because these fields have been -- and continue to be -- disproportionately orientated towards what goes on in more affluent, industrialized nations of the north.

Within this sub-Saharan focus, South Africa has had a prominent place in this blog. There are probably many sources for this. South Africa is a comparatively better-off country than (some of) its sub-Saharan counterparts, and therefore there is greater exposure of bioethical issues in the press and on the web. HIV/AIDS always brings with it dilemmas for researchers, clinicians and public health policymakers, and South Africa has a devastating HIV?AIDS epidemic, coupled with standard-fare tuberculosis, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, and as if that was not enough, extremely drug resistant tuberculosis. The country has also had a spectacularly strange Minister of Health, some of whose pronouncements and policies about HIV/AIDS could have been written by Monty Python, but of course the unfunny part was that she really meant it. And an ex-President who denied HIV causes AIDS, and a bevy of medical charlatans running about. Plus conflicts between modern medicine and traditional healers, rising up (for example) in cases where young men die by the dozen in blotched ritual circumcisions. The country also has -- a legacy from the Apartheid era, no doubt -- a strong research infrastructure capable of conducting clinical trials and therefore dredging up all the research ethics issues of doing such trials with vulnerable populations. In short, a little bit of everything.

I accepted a sort of one-year visiting professor position in Cape Town awhile ago, and arrived here last week. It is not the first time I've been in the Cape: I completed my philosophy Ph.D. while living in nearby Stellenbosch some years ago, and left the country in 2001. Some things have changed, much has stayed the same. It remains to be seen whether this blog changes, now that it is being written out of Africa.

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