School of Population Health

The Global HIV Epidemic: Social Aspects and Impacts (PHCM9622)

image - The Global HIV Epidemic: Social Aspects and Impacts


This course will examine the social, cultural and economic aspects of HIV worldwide. HIV, as a global pandemic, has had a major impact on morbidity and mortality worldwide. It has also had social and economic impacts, and because it’s major transmission routes includes sex and injecting drug use it has immense symbolic power. HIV has engendered unprecedented levels of stigma and discrimination towards groups most affected by the virus and those people living with HIV. The course will also examine the history of the global response to HIV as well as the local responses, with a particular focus on Asia and the Pacific. This course will be useful for those involved or likely to be involved in any of the following areas: HIV research; HIV policy making; HIV prevention; sexual health; the treatment of people with HIV; HIV counselling and testing; stigma and discrimination; as well as anyone with an interest in the HIV pandemic.

Credit points

This course is an International Health elective within the Master of International Public Health or a general elective within the Master of Public Health, Master of Health Management and Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence programs, comprising six units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program. There are no pre-requisites for this course.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

The aim of this course is to provide you with an understanding of the social and public health aspects of global HIV by equipping you with the knowledge and tools for critical thinking and inquiry around this topic.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Recognise the importance of HIV as a public health issue in your chosen country
  • Discuss the social and cultural drivers of the epidemic
  • Reflect upon and critically assess various responses to HIV in your chosen country, region and globally
  • Determine effective public health responses to the global HIV pandemic
Learning and teaching rationale

HIV is one of the world’s major health problems and was a key focus in the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs). HIV is perhaps not as prominently highlighted in the reformulated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) though it does feature explicitly in SDG 3 and to a lesser extent in several other SDG goals. It remains to be seen whether a subtle receding of HIV from the public spotlight is starting to occur and, if so, how that may affect the global response to HIV, including funding levels. 

This course has a practical orientation as it provides you with an opportunity to critically engage with the epidemic in a country of your choice, while also examining HIV from a global perspective. This course is based on an assumption that the best way to learn skills (including conceptual critical skills) is to practise them. Hence along with understanding HIV from a global perspective and what the country of your choice is doing to fight HIV, you will also have an opportunity to formulate an effective public health response to the epidemic based on evidence and matched with the specific conditions in your chosen country.  

Teaching strategies

The course is based around four pillars of understanding: 1. HIV prevention;  2. HIV care, treatment and support; 3. Stigma, discrimination and the law; and 4. HIV governance. These four pillars will guide our thinking throughout the course and inform the assessment tasks. The course notes explain and define basic concepts, and provide recommended reading lists. Most of the reading materials are journal articles or chapters from books which we strongly recommend you read prior to the relevant session.  There are also suggestions for further readings on topics you might be particularly interested in.


Assessment Task 1 - Individual report on a specific country
Weighting: 30%
Length: 1500 words

Assessment Task 2 - Individual report focusing on a key affected population within the same specific country
Weighting: 50%
Length: 2000 words

Assessment Task 3 - The Reading Game
Weighting: 20%

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of course notes with readings.