Journal of Medical Humanities 41 (2):107-121 (2020)

Abstract
In this paper, I utilise the tools of analytic philosophy to amalgamate mono-causal and multi-causal theories of disease. My aim is to better integrate viral and socio-economic explanations of AIDS in particular, and to consider how the perceived divide between mono-causal and multi-causal theories played a role in the tragedy of AIDS denialism in South Africa in the early 2000s. Currently, there is conceptual ambiguity surrounding the relationship between mono-causal and multi-causal theories in biomedicine and epidemiology. Mono-causal theories focus on single, typically microbial, sources of illness and are most concerned with infectious diseases. By contrast, multi-causal theories allow for multiple factors to underpin a disease’s aetiology, including socio-economic and behavioural factors, and they usually focus on chronic non-communicable diseases. However, if these theories are taken to be strictly distinct, this prevents the inclusion of both microbial and socio-economic factors in a single explanation of any particular disease. This strict distinction became a problem when trying to explain the disproportionate prevalence of AIDS in southern Africa and ultimately contributed to the tragedy of AIDS denialism in South Africa. In tandem with viewing how the perceived divide between multi-causal and mono-causal theories underpinned AIDS denialism, I examine Thabo Mbeki’s specific role, while acknowledging that AIDS is being deprioritised on a broader international level. Overall, I will demonstrate that any long-term plan to eliminate AIDS will require viral and socio-economic factors to be considered simultaneously and that such a theoretical approach requires a clearer understanding of the underlying concepts of disease aetiology.
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DOI 10.1007/s10912-017-9441-9
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References found in this work BETA

How Scientists Explain Disease.Paul Thagard - 1999 - Princeton University Press.
Inferring Causation in Epidemiology: Mechanisms, Black Boxes, and Contrasts.Alex Broadbent - 2011 - In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press. pp. 45--69.
Causation and Models of Disease in Epidemiology.Alex Broadbent - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 40 (4):302-311.

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