Anthropology


Anthropology is a social science that revolves around the tool of observation. Yet, for a discipline that appears rather basic it becomes relatively complicated as one examines the subsections of the science. Such is the case when referring to discipline of applied anthropology. Applied anthropologists do not solitarily research, observe and analyze a condition, but more, provide a practical solution to a human problem. It takes conscious effort for one to leave their culture in order to observe another, but this is what must be done in order to ensure that all studies and probable solutions are as unbiased as possible and that no ethical codes are broken. Doctor Michael Elmore-Meegan is facing similar tribulations as he attempts to assist the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) crisis in Kenya, Africa; and the orphans it continues to leave behind. When dealing with individuals and a dilemma that threatens to wipe out their entire civilization, one must make every effort to ensure the right steps are taken and that they have long-term consequences. My paper is going to discuss an anthropologist’s challenge as he challenges to preserve a culture and maintain his personal morals; while attempting to not invade the privacy of those already suffering from the wrath of AIDS.


One of the prime challenges applied anthropologists presently face is tackling one of the most devastating trends sweeping Africa: children orphaned by AIDS. Before the AIDS epidemic began, about two-percent of children in developing countries were orphans. Now, in African countries struck worst by the disease, one out of every ten children is an orphan (1). According to the US Census Bureau, “there are currently thirteen million AIDS orphans in Africa; that is children who have lost at least one parent to the epidemic,” (2). These numbers are predicted to only increase unless something is done to cause this epidemic to abate (2). This social earthquake, rooted through AIDS, has particularly been devastating in Kenya. It houses 1.2 million AIDS orphans and the number is expected to double by the end of the decade (5). The Kenyan government is failing to ensure that the millions of AIDS orphans, or children whose family members are suffering from the disease, are being taken care of (7). As Joanne Csete put it, “The rights of children have been the missing piece of the AIDS crisis. If their parents had died in any other way, these children would have been at the top of the agenda. But because the parents died of AIDS, with all of the stigma that implies they’re at the bottom,” (6). AIDS is becoming much more than a disease slaughtering a country; it is now the cause of a marginalized society in which children are being forced into poverty and out of school in order to fend for themselves or remaining family members (6). The government of Kenya has promoted the grave futures of their youth by not speaking out against the stigma that is held against them. This is leaving the children uneducated, vulnerable and alone due to the fact that extended family members can only take in so many orphans and are beginning to close their doors. Individuals are unable to cope now and there is a dire need for outside assistance to come and evaluate what can and must be done in order to save a nation.


Kenya is now working with applied anthropologist Doctor Michael Elmore-Meegan, part of the Internal Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS). ICROSS is a group who serves the poorest of the poor in Africa and across the globe. They live amoung the community they serve, while formulating strategies to improve the livelihoods of those surrounding them (10). The general goals of ICROSS are explained in their mission statement, which is, “to reduce disease, suffering and poverty among the most deprived communities through development projects run by the people themselves, using their language and their belief and value systems,” (10). AIDS prevention has been one of ICROSS’s major involvements since 1986, while also providing final stage homecare to individuals with AIDS (10). With the help of Doctor Elmor- Meegan, who is part of the epidemiology department and medical anthropology for ICROSS Kenya, they are currently working to determine what is