Dr. Libby Pfeiffer

Elizabeth Pfeiffer
Department, Office, or School
Department of Anthropology
  • Associate Professor

Dr. Pfeiffer is on sabbatical leave for the 2023/2024 academic year.

Pfeiffer book cover
Viral Frictions: Global Health and the Persistence of HIV Stigma in Kenya


Postdoctoral Fellowship in STD/HIV-1 Research, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Indiana University School of Medicine

PhD (Anthropology with a minor in African Studies): Indiana University, Bloomington 

MA (Applied Anthropology): Ball State University 

BA (Anthropology and Sociology): Hanover College

Selected Publications


2022 Viral Frictions: Global Health and the Persistence of HIV Stigma.  Special Series in Medical Anthropology: Health, Inequality and Social Justice. New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press.

Read more about Dr. Pfeiffer’s book here: Viral Frictions | Rutgers University Press
And here: The persistence of HIV stigma in Kenya - The Lancet Infectious Diseases


2023  Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J. “Narratives on Reproductive Justice among Black Adolescent Girls in Clinical Research in the US.” Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness 4(3):222-235. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2023.2185145. 

2022  Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J., Chelsea L. De Paula, Wilson O. Flores, and Alexandria J. Lavallee. “Barriers to patients’ acceptance of social care interventions in clinic settings.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine 63(3S2):S116-S121. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2022.03.035  

2021  Humphrey, John M., Marsha Alera, Bett Kipchumba, Elizabeth J. Pfeiffer, Julia Songok, Winfred Mwangi, Wycliffe Kosgei, Beverly Musick, Constantin Yiannoutsos, Juddy Wachira, and Kara Wools Kaloustian. “A Qualitative Study of the Barriers and Enhancers to Retention in Care for Pregnant and Postpartum Women with HIV.” PLOS Global Public Health 1(10): e0000004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgph.0000004.

2021    Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J., and Harrison M. K. Maithya. “The Cultural Politics of Secrecy during HIV Home Counseling and Testing Campaigns in Kenya.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 23(7):867–82. doi:10.1080/13691058.2020.1736632.

2018    Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J. “‘The Post-Election Violence Has Brought Shame on This place’: Narratives, Place, and Moral Violence in Western Kenya.” African Studies Review 61(2):183–209. doi:10.1017/asr.2017.117.

2018.  Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J. and Harrison M. K. Maithya.  “Bewitching Sex Workers, Blaming Wives: HIV/AIDS, Stigma, and the Gender Politics of Panic in Western Kenya.” Global Public Health 13 (2): 234-248.

2017.  Brian Joseph Gilley and Elizabeth J. Pfeiffer. “White Man’s Disease:  American Indian AIDS Conspiracy Theory and the Refusal of Synthesis.” Medicine Anthropology Theory 4 (3): 1-20.

2017. Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J., Harrison M. K. Maithya, Mary Ott, and Kara Wools-Kaloustian.  “Dangerous Bodies, Unpredictable Minds: HIV/AIDS, Mental Disorders, and Stigma Syndemics in Western Kenya.” In Foundations in Biosocial Health, edited by Shir Lerman, Bayla Ostrach, and Merrill Singer. Lexington, KY: Lexington Books.

2016.  Pfeiffer, Elizabeth J., Kyle A. McGregor, Barbara Van Der Pol, Cathlene Hardy Hansen, and Mary A. Ott. “Willingness to Disclose STI Status to Sex Partners among College-Aged Men.” Sexually Transmitted Diseases 43 (3): 204–206.


First Year Seminar: Global Perspectives on Health 
ANTH 101:  Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 
ANTH 265: Anthropological Perspectives on Childhood 
ANTH 261: The Complexities Global Health 
ANTH 307: Applied Anthropology 
ANTH 309: Medical Anthropology

Additional Information

Research Interests

Dr. Pfeiffer is an applied sociocultural anthropologist with specializations in medical anthropology, global public health, and African Studies. As a medical anthropologist, Dr. Pfeiffer is committed to the pursuit of global health equity and collaborating with others to help solve health-related problems in our shared world. Her teaching and research interests broadly include infectious diseases (especially HIV), health disparities and the social determinants of health, critical global health, and sexual, reproductive, and adolescent health in sub-Saharan Africa, the United States (US), and Jamaica. 

Dr. Pfeiffer has spent a considerable amount of time in East Africa, conducting intensive, clinic and community-based ethnographic research that explores how and why HIV-related stigma and discrimination persists in the age of treatment in western Kenya. This work is the basis of a book, Viral Frictions: Global Health and the Persistence of HIV Stigma in Kenya that was recently published in the Rutgers University Press Series, Medical Anthropology: Health, Inequality, and Social Justice. 

In addition to Dr. Pfeiffer’s ethnographic research, for the past fifteen years, she has collaborated on multiple qualitative and mixed-methods research projects centered on the social and structural barriers to HIV treatment and care, social determinants of health, social risk screening and care programs, and reproductive, sexual, adolescent, and maternal/child health in Kenya and the US. She has also conducted anthropological research and directed study abroad programs in Jamaica. 

Current Research Projects

While on sabbatical leave, Dr. Pfeiffer is engaged in three new research projects:
1)    The first study, “Collecting Oral Histories to Understand the Perspectives and Experiences of PLWHIV and Healthcare Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Kenya,” is funded by a RIC Faculty Scholarship Grant and is being done in collaboration with Dr. Violet Naanyu (Moi University) and Dr. Leslie Enane (Indiana University School of Medicine). This work extends Dr. Pfeiffer’s previous research and is an oral history project examining the impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns on the everyday lives, perspectives, and experiences of people living with HIV—and their HIV care providers—in western Kenya.  

2)    Also funded by a RIC Faculty Scholarship Grant, Dr. Pfeiffer’s second project, “Climate Change, Social Justice, and Health Disparities Pilot Research in Kenya,” is an ethnographic exploration of the social impacts of climate change in eastern Kenya and is being completed in collaboration with Dr. Harrison M.K. Maithya (South Eastern Kenya University). The primary objective of this preliminary work is to begin to explore, describe, and compare the diverse ways that people are making sense of the social, structural, and health-related impacts of climate change—and the national responses to it—in Makueni County, where the effects of climate change and environment degradation have produced drought and arid conditions, and exacerbated food insecurity.  

3)    With funding provided through Health Care Education & Training (HCET), Dr. Pfeiffer is also collaborating with a multidisciplinary team of researchers to conduct an evaluation of the implementation of a reproductive health and sexuality education program for women at a women’s prison in the US. 

Areas of Expertise

Medical Anthropology, African Studies, Development/Globalization, Critical Global Health, Infectious Diseases, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Science and Technology Studies, Social Determinants of Health, Stigma and Discrimination, Education, Applied Anthropology, Ethnographic and Community-Engaged Participatory Research