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Ethics of life in the context of death: the emergence of ethical fields in HIV prevention

  • Astrid Bochow

Discussing the ethical positions of politicians and public intellectuals, mostly Christians, the article analyses the emergence of ethical fields through HIV prevention in the context of Botswana's proactive HIV politics since the turn of the millennium. I discuss the interaction between everyday experiences of death and suffering, activist engagements on the part of some leading figures in prevention, and various publics. All of these voices agree that people and institutions, such as the church, need to fulfil their responsibilities. In all these situations and among the public, kinship becomes a source of identity and of positive ethics of virtue to support behavioural changes. The virtue of responsibility becomes consensual, making it possible to bridge the apparent contestation between the imperative of safe sex, launched by public health discourses, and everyday practices, highlighting childbirth and the continuity of kinship as a way to connect to life and transcend death. These various public and private ethics feed into a political imaginary, drawing on ideas of kinship as guaranteeing social stability.


Traitant des positions éthiques des politiciens et des intellectuels publics (essentiellement chrétiens), l'article analyse l’émergence des champs éthiques à travers la prévention du VIH dans le contexte de la politique proactive en matière de VIH au Botswana depuis le tournant du millénaire. L'auteur traite de l'interaction entre l'expérience quotidienne de la mort et de la souffrance, l'engagement militant de la part de personnalités de premier plan en matière de prévention et des publics divers. Toutes ces voix s'accordent à dire que les citoyens et les institutions (comme l’Église) doivent assumer leurs responsabilités. Dans toutes ces situations et dans le public, la parenté devient une source d'identité et d’éthique positive de vertu pour soutenir les changements de comportements. La vertu de la responsabilité devient consensuelle et permet ainsi de réconcilier la contestation apparente entre l'impératif des rapports sexuels protégés (lancé par des discours de santé publique) et les pratiques quotidiennes, en mettant en lumière l'accouchement et la continuité de la parenté comme un moyen de se relier à la vie et de transcender la mort. Ces diverses éthiques publiques et privées alimentent un imaginaire politique, en s'appuyant sur des idées de la parenté comme garantes de stabilité sociale.

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