Religion in the United Nations (UN) political declarations on HIV & AIDS: an interdisciplinary, critical discourse analysis

Smith, Sally Lynn (2018) Religion in the United Nations (UN) political declarations on HIV & AIDS: an interdisciplinary, critical discourse analysis. DPT thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2018smithdpt.pdf] PDF
Download (2MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


This interdisciplinary cultural studies research uses critical discourse analysis to review the four political declarations on HIV & AIDS adopted by the United Nations in 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016. Religion is implicated in the tensions and conflicts around issues of HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the negotiations that hinders consensus, resulting in compromises and omissions in the texts. The research identifies four dominant discourses in the declarations and an additional two in the wider HIV response of relevance to these tensions; a public health, biomedical discourse; a human rights, gender equality and community engagement discourse; political discourses of leadership and national sovereignty; and a traditional religio-cultural discourse. In the wider HIV response a broader religious discourse and secularist discourse are evident but missing from the text of the declarations. This critical discourse analysis of the declarations investigates how the discourses interact in the text; how the traditional religio-cultural discourse influences the text; what is missing from the final text; and reasons for the gaps. Close textual analysis of the declarations identifies tension between the public health, human rights/gender equality discourses and the traditional religio-cultural and national sovereignty discourses. The traditional religio-cultural discourse operates to limit public health and rights-based approaches to HIV prevention and frames women and girls as passive victims, without agency to exercise their rights. When compared against UNAIDS strategies as a standard, the declarations are missing commitments to address the risks of key populations to HIV. Missing also is reference to any contributions the faith community brings to the epidemic. The broad religious discourse includes supportive approaches to public health, human rights and gender equality, with the potential to bridge gaps in the negotiations. The traditional religious discourse is implicated in gaps in the text on key populations and rights. The dominance of secularism at the UN is implicated in exclusion of the broad religious discourse. While obstacles around rights-based approaches to HIV prevention and key populations persist, common ground and synergies between the discourses exist. Recommendations include: to ask new questions at the UN about the role secularism plays that may increase space for conservative voices to operate; seeking new ways of working to bridge some of the gaps; and including different perspectives that have the potential to bridge the gaps and open up new ways to achieve consensus.

Item Type: Thesis (DPT)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Religion, United Nations, political declarations, HIV, AIDS, interdisciplinary, critical discourse analysis, human rights, gender, secularism, conservative, sexual, reproductive, health, national sovereignty, women, key populations.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Julie, Ms. Clague
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Sally Lynn Smith
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30615
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2018 15:11
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2018 07:37

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year