Bioethics Blogs

Susan Reynolds Whyte’s Second Chances: Surviving AIDS in Uganda by Jason Johnson Peretz

Second Chances: Surviving AIDS in Uganda

Susan Reynolds Whyte, editor

Contributions by Godfrey Etyang, Phoebe Kajubi, David Kyaddondo, Lotte Meinert, Hanne Mogensen, Jenipher Twebaze, Michael A. Whyte

Duke University Press, 2014, 328 pages


What would happen if an entire generation of people who were expected to die experienced a ‘medical resurrection’?What would that generation do with their second chances?What would life look like for them? Susan Reynolds Whyte and her team explore these and other questions in Second Chances: Surviving AIDS in Uganda.

The medical miracle under investigation is anti-retroviral therapy (ART). When first introduced to Uganda, antiretroviral medication (ARVs) literally brought people back from the brink of death. An entire generation of Ugandans who had been expected to die of AIDS was suddenly given a second chance at life.

As Whyte and her team argue, survival created a ‘biogeneration’: a generation marked by the presence of both a medical diagnosis (HIV) and treatment (ARVs). The ‘return to life’ gives this first cohort the shared experience necessary to be a generation unto themselves. Unlike chronic illnesses like diabetes, which also require daily medication, ART in Uganda entails close treatment surveillance, clientship within particular clinical networks, and an identity assumed from the social networks informed by diagnosis, access, and adherence to ARVs. As the authors specify toward the end of the book:

‘The new social relations of the first generation were first and foremost to their health care providers and to the treatment programs they joined. Those relationships were the basis for possible membership in support groups and HIV welfare organizations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.