New MPhil presents critical issues in study of HIV/AIDS and Society

28 October 2002
THE Graduate School in Humanities recently held a lunch to mark the launch, at the beginning of the second semester, of the new MPhil in HIV/AIDS and Society. Also celebrated was the completion, by 13 students, of the semester-long core course, "Critical Issues in the Study of HIV/AIDS and Society".

Of the 13 students who have completed the core course most will continue with the Masters next year. Others will return to their jobs with different perspectives on how to handle the HIV/AIDS epidemic – hopefully with new understandings and fresh ideas on how to deal with old problems.

Dalene Mofokeng, a Programme Development Officer who completed the course says she is looking forward to returning to the NGO that she works for to apply all that she has learnt. “When I started the course I was anxious and overwhelmed because I hadn't studied for a long time but now I'm excited to go back to work and it's a challenge to look at AIDS issues critically,” she says.

The MPhil is an inter-disciplinary programme bringing together experts from four UCT faculties and 11 departments and units. According to the Programme Co-ordinator, Dr. Judith Head, the course focuses on the critical social challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and it aims, through intellectual reflection and critical enquiry, to contribute to the search for effective interventions.

“This course will provide understandings of the social, demographic and economic impact of HIV/AIDS and will equip students to deal with them in critically aware and informed ways.

“We want to stand back and use the epidemic to do what good social science should always be doing, namely asking awkward questions. From these questions might come better answers,” says Head.

The course is unique as it is a Masters level course constructed around HIV/AIDS and focuses on critical social scientific aspects and implications of the epidemic. Head points out that while there are other postgraduate courses available across the country these tend to focus on the impact of the epidemic on management and strategies to cope with the impact.

Speaking at the function the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, said it was heartening to see that the course was up and running as AIDS has become the most devastating disease to affect humankind.

Ndebele said: “I would like to thank the Graduate School in Humanities for creating an opportunity for people to come to UCT, to understand this most pressing issue of the 21st Century and for allowing UCT to engage critically with society regarding academic objectives and key issues of the time.”

The programme forms part of UCT's comprehensive institutional approach to combating HIV/AIDS and is in line with UCT's strategic priorities of HIV/AIDS prevention, education and research.

According to Head the teaching of HIV/AIDS in the curriculum is not going to happen on its own. She says that there is a strong case to be made for developing a curriculum around lifestyle challenges for all first years that would not be didactic or moralistic but that would invite students to explore some of the thorny issues and choices that they in fact face.

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