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Healthy Democracy, Healthy Citizens: Examining how the Quality of Democracy Impacted the Public Health Responses in South Africa’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Shankar Bhat

Name: Shankar Bhat
Majors: Political Science
Advisors: Dr. Michele Leiby

Most Timely

Democracies are understood to improve the responsiveness of leaders to citizen needs due to the introduction of accountability mechanisms in the form of elections. Even authoritarian regimes that hold farcical elections still exhibit a higher investment in social welfare than fully authoritarian regimes. Based on these theories, in the event of a public health crisis, democracies are expected to perform better. This study was conducted to investigate the relationship between the qualities of democracy and the effectiveness of public health policy. This study looked at the post-apartheid regime of South Africa and its handling of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Data was collected on high-level democracy scores, annual HIV cases, annual AIDS-related deaths, and availability of treatment. We also looked at commitments to democracy to understand the quality of accountability mechanisms and subsequent responsiveness of elected officials. This study found that the low democratic commitments of the Mbeki administration negatively affected the ability of the government to provide effective treatment and curb the spread of HIV and AIDS. Additionally, changes in the policies of the African National Congress came at a time when it was electorally advantageous.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.


5 responses to “Healthy Democracy, Healthy Citizens: Examining how the Quality of Democracy Impacted the Public Health Responses in South Africa’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic”

  1. Bryan K says:

    Awesome work, Shankar! I can’t wait to see what you add to the field next in graduate school (and beyond)!

  2. Julia Klein says:

    Fantastic work – congrats to you. So timely, and really well presented
    Best wishes,
    Julia Klein ‘83
    Trustee

  3. Kent Kille says:

    Great to see you win an award, Shakar – made me come here to check out the project, well done!

  4. Maha Rashid says:

    Great and interesting work!

  5. Clare Leithauser says:

    Congrats Shankar, this is very interesting! What was the most challenging thing you faced during your research?