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Peaceworks 53

Peaceworks logoDownward Spiral
HIV/AIDS, State Capacity, and Political Conflict in Zimbabwe

Andrew T. Price-Smith and John L. Daly

Once regarded as the emerging star of postcolonial Africa, Zimbabwe is now a nation teetering on the brink of economic and political collapse. In recent years, the country has been wracked by rising levels of politically motivated violence, elections marred by widespread fraud, an ill-advised military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the seizure of farms from white populations without due regard for the law, and violence against supporters of the political opposition. To make matters worse, Zimbabwe exhibits one of the highest levels of HIV/AIDS sero-prevalence in the world, with approximately 34 percent of the adult population now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.

This study traces the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on both the withering economy and the tottering apparatus of governance in Zimbabwe. The report begins by briefly chronicling the influence that epidemic disease has had on the stability of human societies throughout history. Next, it reviews the utility of the concept of state capacity and applies it to the case of HIV/AIDS and Zimbabwe. The report then moves on to dissect the corrosive effect of HIV/AIDS on Zimbabwe's national institutions. Finally, after briefly reviewing the Zimbabwean government's response to HIV/AIDS, the report offers a set of policy recommendations for the international community in general, and for the U.S. government in particular, designed to ameliorate the spread of HIV in Zimbabwe.


Andrew Price-Smith is assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. He has served as an adviser to the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

John L. Daly is associate professor of public administration, Department of Government and International Affairs, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He has both local and international experience working with government and public administrators. In 1998-99, he was selected as the Fulbright Senior Scholar to the Kingdom of Swaziland, where he served as a technical consultant to its national government.

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