Accepted Paper:

No hope for healing at home: AIDS, emigration, and the search for health  


Alexander Rödlach (Creighton University)

Paper short abstract:

The virtually non-existent care for AIDS sufferers in Zimbabwe motivates many individuals to emigrate in order to procure funds for purchasing antiretroviral medication for their sick relatives. The paper analyzes a master narrative of successful émigrés.

Paper long abstract:

Zimbabwe's health care system is desperately under-funded resulting in a low morale among health care professionals, massive emigration of physicians and nurses, and a crumbling infrastructure. The high HIV infection rate in the country further exacerbates this situation with AIDS patients inundating the already overburdened health sector. Subsequently, most AIDS sufferers are looked after at home. However, due to the rising costs of living even the most basic care cannot be provided. This problematic health situation motivates some individuals to emigrate in order to raise funds for relatives suffering from AIDS.

A yearlong research in an urban township in Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, documents some motifs of individuals for emigrating. Particularly the young ponder leaving the country in order to make money that will enable them to purchase antiretroviral (ARV) medication for their ailing relatives. Stories about émigrés who succeeded in providing such support became a master narrative encouraging migration and provide hope for AIDS sufferers and their households. Other stories of migrants' economic failure and inability to send ARV drugs are blended out. These would have destroyed the last hope of AIDS sufferers and their households. They have already given up expecting support from the governmental health sector or from non-governmental health organizations.

My paper interprets this master narrative as an aspect in migrant's resilience to access health care even across barriers such as national borders. Migrating is seen as a minor barrier compared with the precarious and desperate health care situation in Zimbabwe.

Panel W051
Migrants' pathways to health care: access barriers and patterns of resilience and mutuality