Centre for Global Health Policy

Keynote Speaker

Professor Vinh-Kim Nguyen

‘Eradication: the science and politics of a “world without AIDS”’



Vinh-Kim Nguyen is an HIV physician and medical anthropologist. As both a practitioner and researcher, he is concerned with the relationship between science, politics and practice in global health. Since 1994 he has worked extensively with community organisations responding to the HIV epidemic in West Africa as a trainer and physician. This informed his anthropological work on the global response to HIV with a concern for the forms of triage and sovereignty they embody. He continues to follow the evolving scientific and political response to HIV in his current work which focuses on molecular epidemiology, global health and social theory. He practices at the Clinique médicale l’Actuel and in the Emergency Department at the Jewish General Hospital in Montréal (Canada). He teaches at the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Montreal, where he is Associate Professor, and recently established a Chair in Anthropology and Global Health at the College of Global Studies in Paris. He is the author of The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa's Time of AIDS; co-author, with Margaret Lock, of An Anthropology of Biomedicine and also the co-editor, with Jennifer Klot, of The Fourth Wave: Violence, Gender, Culture, and HIV in the 21st Century, as well as numerous articles in biomedical and anthropological journals.



The next five years will mark a crucial turning point in the global AIDS epidemic and indeed for global health. Powerful new strategies have put the goal of eradicating HIV transmission within reach and for the first time contemplating “a world without AIDS”. International agencies, global activists and NGOs, as well as national and local public health authorities, have embraced the goal of achieving a “zero HIV transmission” through intensified screening of populations and mass treatment for those who are found to be HIV-infected. In the words of Hillary Clinton, “as we continue to drive down the number of new infections and drive up the number of people on treatment, eventually we will be able to treat more people than become infected every year. That will be the tipping point. We will then get ahead of the pandemic and an AIDS-free generation will be in our sight”. In this scenario, those currently infected will be the last generation to harbour the virus, and the epidemic will die off with them. In addition, despite a series of setbacks, attempts continue to develop and prepare for an eventual HIV vaccine as well as other preventive technologies such as microbicides. There is even talk of curing infected individuals of HIV – a goal previously thought to be biologically impossible. This talk will revisit the question of pharmaceutical governance by critically engaging the science and politics of HIV eradication, with a particular emphasis on the contribution of ethnography, the engagement with social theory, and the impact on global health.