Boundary institutions and HIV/AIDS policy in Brazil and South Africa

Author(s): Evan Lieberman, Varun Gauri 

Status/Format: Published

Date: 2006

Publication Type: Journal Article

Publisher: Studies in Comparative International Development

Volume and Issue: 41

Page Numbers: 47 - 73


Why have some national governments acted more aggressively to address the HIV/ AIDS pandemic than others? More specifically, what explains, widely varied responses across Brazil and South Africa—two countries where one might have expected more similarity than difference? We argue that boundary institutions—those sets of rules and practices that give social and political meaning to group identities—help explain this puzzle. Institutions interact with other pressures to structure the dissemination of information, the construction of risk, and priorities within society. Where institutions divide groups deeply, elites and ordinary citizens are less likely to feel vulnerable, and more likely to blame other groups, making aggressive government action far less likely.