South African Social Science in the Global HIV/AIDS Knowledge Domain

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University of Cape Town

Research about HIV constitutes a global domain of academic knowledge. This domain is dominated by biomedicine, and by institutions and funders based in the ‘global North’. However, from the earliest years of the epidemic, African investigators have produced and disseminated knowledge about HIV. Using a ‘Northern’ standard for determining research impact - bibliometrical measures of citation count - we demonstrate how metrics for capturing the impact of knowledge may be repurposed. We explore how the research in this archive may be interpreted as ‘Southern Theory’. Our argument is not based on the geographical location, but instead on epistemological significance. With a focus on South Africa, we situate HIV social science within changing historical contexts, connecting research findings to developments in medicine, health sciences and politics. We focus on two key themes in the evolution of HIV knowledge: (1) The significance of context and locality - the ‘setting’ of HIV research; and (2) sex, race and risk – changing ideas about the social determinants of HIV transmission.