Olaf Sakkers ’11



Project Title

Snake Hill: Mythologies, Medicines and Misunderstandings surrounding HIV in Rural South Africa

Based at a rural hospital in South Africa, my research is focused on understanding the interaction between religion at the hospital and the treatment and recovery of patients who are HIV positive as well as how conceptions of religion affect interpretations of health care and HIV stigma.

Patients grapple with disease and suffering, negotiating different descriptions of the world given by traditional African religion and Christianity. Many patients associate the hospital with Christianity and their recovery on ARVs with the work of God. Religion is important to many of the hospital staff too, with nurses and patients gathering each morning to sing hymns and pray.

The ARV roll-out at the hospital has been successful, with over 2000 people on ARVs, yet stigma around HIV persists and the hospital wards remain filled with gaunt patients infected with TB and HIV.

Internship Year


Project Category



Zithulele Hospital, South Africa


João Biehl, Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology. Co-Director, Program in Global Health and Health Policy and Peter Locke