During the last 10-15 years, the far-reaching and fundamental intertwinements between religion and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa have become increasingly visible and addressed in scholarly research. Religious traditions have developed their own, and in some ways unique (and also problematic) responses to the epidemic. At the same time, religions themselves have been transformed through the ways in which HIV/AIDS has affected social life and experiences in African societies.
This special section of the African Journal of AIDS Research focuses on the terrain of biomedical treatment, especially antiretroviral therapy, as one of the largest interventions in the history of public health in Africa in order to analyse and understand these diverse entanglements in terms of the production of new religious spaces. The introduction of ART has been associated with a range of individual and collective hopes, expectations and experiences of healing that are linked to the prolonging of lives through biomedical treatment. At the same time, the promotion and implementation of ART has become intertwined with, and emblematic for, a globally evolving framework of health governance that has been linked to specific political and funding constellations, as well as the growing role of religion in international and national arenas. These developments are conceptualized in the special section as a "redemptive moment" in order to emphasize the (potentially) transitory nature of transnationalized political and funding configurations as well as the unique place of antiretroviral treatment in African history.
Following the introduction, which includes an overview of the research field and conceptual considerations by the guest-editors, the special section is divided into three sections. The papers by Leusenkamp, Patterson and Joshua take an institutional perspective to demonstrate how the reshaping of religious spaces in the era of biomedical treatment is being enabled and constrained by a variety of institutional interactions including states, donors and faith-based organizations. The articles by Togarasei and Balogun consider the significance of religious convictions, dogma and ideologies that govern many of the institutional and practical relations that evolve around the rollout of ARV. The papers by Tocco, Simpson and Kwansa explore different religious practices that have shaped experiences of AIDS and ARV treatment.
The papers take different disciplinary perspectives (political science, anthropology, history, and theology) and deal with developments in Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia. Furthermore, they emphasize that there is not just one form of Islam, Christianity or African Traditional Religion that has come to shape people's practices and experiences in the context of HIV/AIDS and ART in uniform ways. Instead, the papers highlight the manifold articulations that internally differentiated and contested religious thought and practice offer with regard to illness, treatment and healing in contemporary Africa.