AIDS and Intravenous Drug Use: The Influence of Morality, Politics, Social Science, and Race in the Making of a Tragedy

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The name AIDS is an accusation. It implies punishment for sin--homosexuality and promiscuity. AIDS is a moral judgement masquerading as a scientific name, which is at the very heart of discrimination against the infected. At the bottom are drug users, victims of the War On Drugs, condemned to contract AIDS by using contaminated syringes necessitated by scarcity resulting from restrictive policies. A rational way to control HIV is to liberalize drug paraphernalia policies as in Europe. The U.S. has not taken this simple step, thus unleashing the AIDS epidemic among drug users, their sexual partners, and neonates. While this policy neglect can be understood in the context of AIDS prevention dominated by moral, political, and religious ideologies rather than epidemiological facts, there are critical racial implications. The ethnic divide separating the white researchers and the infected who belong to minorities has fuelled comparisons of AIDS with the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study and some preventive strategies have been called genocidal plots. Recent research indicating the ineffectiveness of bleach to disinfect paraphernalia has exposed the deadly consequences of a nonchalant attitude to research and compromises for political expediency.

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Editorial Reviews

Fernando (anthropology, City U. of New York) argues that the only epidemiologically sound way to arrest the spread of AIDS among intravenous drug users, their sexual partners, and their babies, is to liberalize access to needles and to decriminalize the possession of drug paraphernalia, as has been done in almost all the nations of the developed world. He reviews the public attitude towards AIDS victims, the scope and pattern of intravenous drug use and government policy toward it, the place of needles in the drug subculture, and the racial implications. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275942458
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/21/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

M. DANIEL FERNANDO is an anthropologist who has worked in the area of AIDS and drug use since 1987 in both counseling and research.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Wages of Sin Is Death 5
And We Shall Call It AIDS 10
AIDS Is an Accusation - (You) Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome 14
AIDS: A Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)? 16
African Safari: Search for Heterosexual AIDS and Promiscuity 20
Moral Discourse on Sex and AIDS 29
Corollary of STD Classification: The Hemophilia Tragedy 33
Further Stigmatization of AIDS: The Prostitute Connection 38
2 Intravenous Drug Use and AIDS: U.S. Policy Inaction 43
NIDA International Conference on Intravenous Drug Abuse and AIDS: A Brief Review of the Papers 46
The International Experience 60
Conclusions of NIDA and Some Comments 68
3 The Myth of Needle Sharing: The Heroin Subculture, Bleach, and the Impact on Liberalization 75
A Brief History of the Use of Contaminated Needles 76
Needle Sharing in AIDS Literature: Ritual Seekers and Myth Makers 79
Theoretical Inaccuracy and Political Uses of Needle Sharing 86
Needles in the Heroin Subculture: Historical Evidence 89
The Economics of Renting Used Needles 93
Why Bleach? A Good Question 95
Of Bleach and Other Things: What Is Going On? 96
Miscalculations of the Extent of "Sharing" and the Case for Liberalization and Decriminalization 100
4 The Racial Implications of AIDS Research and Prevention: A Critical Commentary 107
The Black Community and AIDS 108
White Researchers on the Black Response 112
AIDS among Minority Drug Users: The Social Science Response 118
White Drug Users and AIDS 121
Race and the AIDS Research Circle (A.R.C.): Social Science 123
AIDS Outreach and Minority Participation 132
Responsibility of the Black Community: Demand Liberalization and Decriminalization 137
Conclusion 141
Bibliography 145
Index 161
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