Global public health 2017 12 15() 1-14 doi 10.1080/17441692.2017.1414287
This paper examines the stock-outs of medicines and diagnostic devices in Uganda. Our aim is to trace and compare interruptions in the supply of antiretrovirals and Rapid Diagnostic Tests in order to provide an ethnographic account of the complex role that improvisations play within global health infrastructures. We will argue that the fragmented and mobile infrastructures of these key global health technologies require and necessitate improvisations by the different actors involved as well as on almost all levels of the Ugandan health-care system. The extent and abundance of improvisations in itself works to acquire infrastructural capacities, a process that we will call the infrastructuring of care and treatment. We will also show how this process of infrastructuring of care and treatment – here rendered visible through improvisations – produces new dilemmas and uncertainties. Our approach to infrastructure challenges technocratic overtones prevalent in current debates around the much-needed strengthening of health systems. Our study of stock-outs aims to show how the infrastructure of under-resourced health systems is maintained by a complex nexus of socio-material practices and improvisations.