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Cult Health Sex. 2012;14 Suppl 1:S27-38. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2011.631220. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

The compassion of concealment: silence between older caregivers and dying patients in the AIDS era, northwest Tanzania.

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  • 1Department of Social Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In northwest Tanzania, where AIDS has been present for 25 years, AIDS-related illness is a trigger through which community members discuss personal experiences of loss and assess social relationships. The terminal phase of AIDS demands intimate social relations between patients and caretakers. In this final phase of illness, caretakers are scrutinised for their behaviour towards the patient. In the moral world in which caregiving takes place, the act of concealing is considered an intrinsic part of proper care. Current debates on morality, stigma and secrecy inform my argument that acts of concealment around dying are not so much related to the exclusion and ostracism of patients but to inclusion and compassionate care.

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