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Lecture 3

GGRB28H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Haitian Americans, Cultural Anthropology, Blood Transfusion

Course Code
Michelle Majeed

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GGRB28 CLASS 3 readings
Farmer Chapter 4 (The Exotic and the Mundane)
The author admits that training in anthropology had induced him to
“misdiagnose” structural violence as cultural difference.
Critical epidemiology had the power to reveal a great deal about a novel
infectious disease
Since AIDS in the Caribbean is a translational pandemic shaped by
conditions and structures long in place, a Critical epidemiology, will necessarily
be historically deep and geographical broad.
In a meeting with the Haitian community about AIDS, one U.S physician
was taken to task for his “racist speculations” about Haitians being a risk group
for AIDS.
Others also published outlandish speculations purporting to explain AIDS in
Haiti, including the assertion that “magic ritual provides a means for transfer
of blood and secretions from person to person.
Women have been known to introduce menstrual blood into the food and
drink of their partners to prevent them from “straying”
The author, working through the problem in Haiti, found a perspective: which
might be termed “biosocial” rather than the fuzzy, now new age term
He found “accusation” to be a dominant theme through his experience
among Port-au-Prince professionals.
Social responses to the new disease, like the disease itself, linked Haiti’s rural
Central Plateau to the city of Port-au-Prince, and beyond that, to the United
States. This was a matter of moral geography: a “geography of blame”
Solange Eliodor was a woman who fled to U.S as a refugee…and died. Her
story—flight by boat from Haiti, U.S Immigration detention, newspaper
headlines, mistaken diagnosis of tuberculosis and official violence – is of a
piece with a single narrative.
The Haitian cases and the subsequent risk-grouping spurred a wide range of
theories purporting to explain the epidemiology and origins of AIDS.
The theory that Haitian virus was brought back to the homosexual
population in the United States was echoed by many scientists and
physicians investigating AIDS.
Other pundits in Europe and North America linked AIDS in Haiti to “voodoo
Haiti has long been depicted as a strange and hopelessly diseased polity
remarkable chiefly for its extreme isolation from the rest of the civilized
world. A journalist back in 1989 writing for Vanity Fair claimed that Haiti is to
this hemisphere what black holes are to outer space.
At the time of this writing, Haiti, Guyana, and Brazil stand alone among this
hemisphere’s nations as countries afflicted with generalized epidemics (in
which infection is prevalent from mother to child).
Most chroniclers of the AIDS pandemic agree that awareness of the new
syndrome began to emerge in California in 1981.
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Kaposi’s sarcoma was linked to this.
Pape and co-workers in their study found that 74 percent of all men with
opportunistic infections lived in greater Port-au-Prince.
Some conclusions made from the research were:
1) Haitians with AIDS were largely men
2) The epicenter of the Haitian epidemic was in the city of Carrefour, home to
Haiti’s largest red-light district.
3) A large percentage of the early cases were linked to homosexual contact,
some of it with North Americans and involving the exchange of money.
4) The association with a history of blood transfusions seemed to be greater
in Haiti than in the United States.
5) Although the opportunistic infections often differed from those seen in
North Americans with AIDS, the Haitian epidemic was very similar to that in
the U.S.
We can discern an “American phase” of the Haitian epidemic, in which risk
factors for HIV seemed to reflect those identified in the US
To understand the West Atlantic AIDS Pandemic, a historical understanding of
the worldwide spread of HIV is crucial.
This critique by the author as practical effects on preventive strategies and
treatment efforts.
Lurid scenarios were promoted in the popular press, which offered images of
voodoo, animal(and even human) sacrifice, and boatloads of disease-ridden
Such articles had a considerable impact on Haiti, which once was
counted tourism as an important source of foreign currency. Haiti was
made an international pariah by AIDS
In research conducted among Haitian Americans with AIDS, none of the
“accepted risk factors” were identified- that is. Homosexuality, bisexuality,
injection, drug use, blood transfusion or hemophilia.
The most striking revelation, in lights of reports about Haitians with AIDS in
the U.S, was that fully half of the male patients interviewed in Port-au-Prince
had a history of sexual relations with men. None of them, however, was
exclusively homosexual. So being bisexual, it provides greater opportunity for
heterosexual transmission of AIDS.
Haiti plays an interesting role in what has been termed “West
Atlantic system”, an economic network encompassing much of the
Caribbean basin.
AIDS in Haiti is all about proximity, not distance. It is tied to the U.S, not
Africa. It is about inequality, both local and transnational.
The ‘problem’ of Asian women’s sexuality: public discourses in
Aotearoa/ New Zealand (Rachel Simon-Kuma)*
The reproductive and sexual health of Asian communities has emerged as a
“problem” in public health circles in New Zealand.
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