What are the 13 perspectives of AIDS?


Different people and organizations present different images AIDS. The most common image is AIDS together with medicine, numbers, and statistics. Given that it is a disease, this is perhaps not surprising, even though it is not a disease in the normal sense. How something is presented effect how peoples think and dealt with a problem. It also affects which resources are available, and for what purpose. A wrong image, therefore, can have a negative effect on how a global problem, such as AIDS, is dealt with. Remember, AIDS has been a global problem since 1980s.


AIDS differs from many other diseases; it is linked to what is our most private part of life, our sexuality. Today it is a disease that affects most young people in the most productive ages, and who are otherwise healthy and prosperous. To reduce these people to numbers presenting HIV prevalence rates does not give a clue how to address the issue, and even less how to effectively address the effect of AIDS.

Since 1989, when I started working with HIV prevention work, I have tried to understand AIDS, not the disease, but the phenomenon AIDS is in our society. Also, I tried to understand why all organisations and persons involved in combatting the spread of AIDS, despite billions of dollars spent by different stakeholders, had not been able to achieve satisfactory results to halt or at least slow down the pandemic. My experience from working with HIV prevention is the lack of a holistic view of the phenomenon of AIDS. Organisations often tend to focus on one side of AIDS, which is connected to the above-mentioned restrictions of what you can use available resources for. I am confident that a successful work to counteract AIDS can be achieved when the persons, organisations, and authorities involved understand the phenomenon of AIDS and its different perspectives, therefore, I developed the concept of All the 13 Perspectives of AIDS to lead one step closer to this understanding.

The following perspectives are presented in the order in which I consider to be the most important, on the basis of HIV prevention. There are many questions raised in each perspective, some are rhetorical, and some need answers. We who work in these areas have a responsibility to reflect on this and act in accordance with the overall image that I hereby want to convey.



The political perspective is unfortunately the one clearest related to denial. Lack of policy initiatives, or completely contradictory priorities have edged the first 30 years of AIDS’s history.



The most common view among people around the world, I would believe, is that AIDS is God's punishment against an unhealthy way of living. Religion has always been influential when people around the world have faced difficulties like diseases and natural disasters.



The ethical perspective is probably bringing more questions than answers in relation to AIDS. Everyone needs to think for themselves what is right or what needs to be changed in order to better respond to the HIV pandemic.



Legislation regulates a society and projects the political will on how and what its member population should abide to. One could say they are the pillars on which society rests. These laws can be used to oppress, and to set people free.



What happens to a society when the majority of the population in the most productive working ages are living with HIV or have AIDS or have died as a result of AIDS? Who shall work and make the economy spin and develop, and who shall take care of, and educate the coming generations of children and who shall take care of the old and sick people?



The social perspective sheds light on the interpersonal contacts present in a society. The interaction between people has different expressions depending on where in the world we find ourselves. People have different levels of their social meetings and AIDS affect these relationships, these meetings, in more or less obvious ways.



To put the generic (gender) perspective on the 8th place among these 13 perspectives is might strange. I have to agree, and this shows the complexity and importance of addressing AIDS and the prevention work in a comprehensive way, with guidance from the 13 perspectives.



This perspective focuses on the security issues connected to AIDS. In the term security I mean situations where people are put at risk in their life from armed forces, a life where people for example had to flee from their homes and every day-situation, and to seek new possibilities within their country or in another country.



HIV infection is a disease mostly effecting young people in their most productive ages, making it differ from most (if not all?) other diseases in the world. As underlined above, diseases are most often associated with medical treatment, medicines, vaccines and a variety of cures. This perspective highlights the role of medical research and pharmaceutical companies.



The psychological perspective is first and foremost about people living with HIV or AIDS and the anguish and feelings of guilt they may have, because they are carriers of the virus and depending on in what context they have contracted it.



In hard times - especially politically - culture has often been the regulator for people's anger, frustration and struggle to change. When it comes to AIDS, the cultural perspective has been used to a limited degree and in various contexts.



What has environment to do with AIDS? Maybe because so many people cannot see the links, there is little research on the environmental impacts on AIDS, and AIDS' impact on the environment. Trees used for coffins, and fire wood due to lack of income for widows not being allowed to inherit their deceased men, urbanisation, decreased production of crops, increased condom use threat etc.



The geographical perspective puts the light on the spread of the pandemic. At the same time it should be understood as an eye-opener for local epidemics. Since there is a global spread of HIV, we can clearly say that the disease has a global geographical coverage, even if the spread is not equally distributed.