Nicoli Nattrass is a professor of Economics and the Director of AIDS and Society Research Unit within the Center for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Nattrass authored 55 articles published in academic journals and published five books in the areas of economic policy, the political-economy, cultural and behavioural aspects of AIDS. She is an advocate of science based AIDS treatment in South Africa and a longtime critic of AIDS denialists. Nattrass has been very critical of Thabo Mbeki's AIDS policy in South Africa and estimated that >340,000 unnecessary AIDS deaths in South Africa between 1999 and 2007 were the result of this policy.
Nattrass received her undergraduate and master degrees from Stellenbosch University and University of Natal, a master degree in development economics and a doctorate degree with a thesis on' Wages, Profits and Apartheid' from Oxford University. She was a Rhodes Scholar in 1984.
Works to counter AIDS denialism
Between 2002 and 2012, Nattrass published a number of academic articles and books to examine the history, sources, characteristics of AIDS denialism and its impact on HIV prevention and AIDS treatment.
In her award winning book The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa, written at the height of AIDS denialism, Nattrass repudiated the South African government's claim that antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) were unaffordable. She demonstrated that by not implementing mother to child transmission prevention programs, the cost to treat sick children who acquired AIDS from their mother was greater than to prevent the tragedy from happening.
Nattrass estimated that Mbeki's denialist policies led to the early deaths of more than 340,000 South Africans and 171,000 infections, which she likened to 'genocide'. She attributed the slow and ineffective governmental response to the country's massive AIDS epidemic directly to the influence of the AIDS denialists.
In her 2012 article in Skeptical Inquirer and book The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back, Nattrass examines the landscape of the AIDS denialist community and identifies four groups of characters: hero scientists (provide scientific credibility); cultropreneurs (promote non-evidence based, unproven alternative treatment); living icons (proof that HIV is not the cause of AIDS) and praise singers (journalists and film makers who promote the cause). She observes that they each fill their own important role in the intractable propagation of the movement and their intertwined and symbiotic relationships are established through their shared anti-science and conspiratorial stance, and beliefs in alternative medicine and treatment. Nattrass describes how pro-science activists fought back by deploying empirical evidence and giving political credibility to refute AIDS conspiracy theories, as part of the crucial project to defend evidence-based medicine and combat pseudoscience.
Nattrass has collaborated with the United Nation Research Institute for Social Development for which she co-authored the South African study for the project ‘Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes’. Nattrass also was a visiting professor at Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.
- Nattrass's first book on the subject of AIDS, The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa won the 2005 University of Cape Town book award and the 2008 Bill Venter/Altron Literary Award.
- University of Cape Town distinguished teacher award 2001.
- "Prof Nicoli Nattrass". Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "Nicoli Nattrass Research & Publications". School of Economics, University of Cape Town. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- Nattrass, Nicoli (2008). "Estimating the Lost Benefits of Antiretroviral Drug Use in South Africa". African Affairs (Oxford University Press) 107 (427): 157–176. doi:10.1093/afraf/adm087.
- "Rhodes Scholar List". Oxford University. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "Book marries ethical and economic aspects of AIDS". University of Cape Town. 23 May 2005. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "Nicoli Nattrass Wins Top Academic Book Prize". University of Cape Town, School of Economics. 8 July 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- Nattrass, Nicoli (2004). The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 224. ISBN 0521548640.
- Nattrass, Nicoli (2012). "The Social and Symbolic Power of AIDS Denialism". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 36 (July/August): 34–38.
- Nattrass, Nicoli (2012). The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back. Cambridge University Press. p. 240. ISBN 0231149123.
- United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. "Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes". Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "Visiting Professor, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs". Yale University. Retrieved 7 September 2012.