Original Research

The Taming Wicked Problems Framework: A plausible biosocial contribution to ‘ending AIDS by 2030’

Christopher J. Burman
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 14, No 1 | a401 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v14i1.401 | © 2018 Christopher J. Burman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 December 2016 | Published: 19 June 2018

About the author(s)

Christopher J. Burman, The Community Engagement Unit, Rural Development and Innovation Hub, affiliated to the Turfloop Graduate School of Leadership, University of Limpopo, South Africa


In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) published the Gap Report, which states that a new biosocial response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic is required to reinforce the biomedical strategy – Vision 90:90:90 – which is designed to end AIDS by 2030. This article provides a descriptive account of how a community–university partnership developed and piloted an innovative, transdisciplinary approach to HIV and AIDS management that could represent a nascent biosocial candidate to reinforce the biomedical strategy. The biosocial strategy has been labelled as the Taming Wicked Problems Framework that is influenced by ontological perspectives associated with complexity theory. The article focuses on how the Taming Wicked Problems Framework was developed by co-opting and repurposing management techniques associated with complexity into an action-oriented HIV and AIDS combination intervention. Three years after the pilot began, the Taming Wicked Problems Framework continues to provision the partnership with opportunities to ‘tame’ non-linear, biosocial aspects of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in rural South Africa. However, with the benefit of hindsight, there are some improvements and caveats that are highlighted so that future applications will be more robust. It is suggested that the Taming Wicked Problems Framework could represent one localised biosocial response that could contribute to ending AIDS by 2030.


complexity; HIV and AIDS; non-linearity; sense making; South Africa; transdisciplinary


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