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Conspiracies, distrust and suspicions of health programmes in Africa


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Speaker(s): Professor Tim Allen, Dr Laura Bogart, Dr Heidi Larson, Professor Nicoli Nattrass, Dr Melissa Parker
Chair: Linsey McGoey

Recorded on 13 November 2012 in Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House.

This panel discussion will explore the challenges posed by distrust and conspiracy beliefs about public health programmes (schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, polio and HIV/AIDS) in sub-Saharan Africa (Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and South Africa). The successful development of effective technologies to treat HIV and vaccinate against polio, lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis have all rightfully been hailed as major steps forward in the struggle to control public health problems in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of uptake of any of these innovations can, however, derail even the best-designed public health programmes. One of the factors contributing to poor uptake is patients’ distrust of either the health technologies themselves or the people who administer them. This is sometimes articulated in the form of conspiracy theories about the origins of the HIV, or the efficacy of vaccines, and constitutes a significant barrier to vaccine uptake, mass treatment compliance, HIV testing, and condom use in numerous countries. Drawing from in-depth research, the speakers will explore the causes and impacts of conspiracy beliefs and distrust of health interventions, and discuss possible solutions.

Tim Allen is professor in development anthropology at LSE.

Laura Bogart is associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

Heidi Larson is senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Nicoli Nattrass is professor of economics at the University of Cape Town.

Melissa Parker is senior lecturer at Brunel University.

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