Social research on AIDS is beginning to look beyond the causes, treatment, and prevention of the disease to its impacts on society and the economy. This article looks specifically at the impact of AIDS on funeral culture in Malawi. Statistical methods, basic ethnography, and focused interviews were employed to document changes in funerary customs and attendance patterns. Because of rising death rates from AIDS, Malawians are facing increasing difficulty in attending every funeral in their village, as custom requires. This is leading to selectivity in funeral attendance, stemming from a prioritization based on underlying cultural values. Families of AIDS victims are also facing difficulties in coping with the expectation to provide a funeral feast, given that funerals are far more numerous than before the onset of the AIDS crisis. This article demonstrates the importance of adapting both old and new methods to understanding the multifaceted AIDS epidemic.
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