Search type

Global Development Institute


Allowable death and the valuation of Human Life: Do all lives matter? The study of people living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe

The debates on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in the US, LGBTQ Prides worldwide, and the HIV/AIDS campaigns in Africa have been rallying cries for ‘value’ of human life. Each different in its core objectives, they have each questioned ‘if human life is valued or not’ and protested against ‘allowable deaths,' humiliation and discrimination. The tenets of the arguments in all these movements are that all lives matter, all lives have value and lives need to be accorded their inherent worth.

These are historical but also current examples of cases in which particular social groups have not been valued enough to be counted, even upon death. But non among these debates have systematically provided an empirical analysis of how human life is valued in policy and practice. My study provides one of the first contemporary empirical analyses of the ways in which the Value of Human life (VoHL) is framed in health policy and practice using the HIV/AIDS case study in Zimbabwe.  This novelty brings with it several new ways of thinking, both concerning the ways of public health policy formulation, implementation and monitoring, and the ways in which we understand the politics and consequences of decision-making on the VoHL. At the outset, my study identifies the concept of ‘allowable death’ as one with relevance in Zimbabwe and the broader Sub-Saharan context. But the concept is also particularly important at the global level and in particular on the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as it provides explicit means to discuss social justice through enforceability of health rights. Putting the concept of ‘allowable death’ along with policy discussions on premature mortality has significant implications for decisions made along the path toward universal health coverage and ‘’leaving no one behind’’.

 This project is being carried out by Dr Fortunate Machingura.It is funded by ESRC Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) grants.