AIDS Alibis

AIDS Alibis: Sex, Drugs, and Crime in the Americas

Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    AIDS Alibis
    Book Description:

    AIDS Alibistackles the cultural landscape upon which AIDS, often accompanied by poverty, drug addiction, and crime, proliferates on a global scale. Stephanie Kane layers stories of individuals and events -- from Chicago to Belize City, to cyberspace -- to illustrate the paths of HIV infection and the effects of environment, government intervention, and social mores. Linking ordinary yet kindred lives in communities around the globe, Kane challenges the assumptions underlying the use of police and courts to solve health problems.The stories reveal the dynamics that determine how the policy decisions of white-collar health care professionals actually play out in real life. By focusing on life-changing social problems, the narratives highlight the contradictions between public health and criminal law. Look at how HIV has transformed our social consciousness, from intimate touch to institutional outreach. But, Kane argues, these changes are dwarfed by the United States's refusal to stop the war on drugs, in effect misdirecting resources and awareness.AIDS Alibiscombines empirical and interpretive methods in a path-breaking attempt to recognize the extent to which coercive institutional practices are implicated in HIV transmission patterns. Kane shows how th e virus feeds on the politics of inequality and indifference, even as it exploits the human need for intimacy and release.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0613-2
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is one of a host of threats to our species. Toxicity is an everyday immune event, so close to home that fluids are fighting flesh inside our bodies. Future archaeologists will date baby boomers by the radioactive strontium in their bones. We have immune disease and autoimmune disease; we have homicide and suicide; we have drug war and drug addiction. We are being trained to accept wars against ourselves, wars that kill us but that we agree are in our own best interest. If justice and reason prevailed, we could control all this. We have...

    • 2 Prostitution North
      (pp. 23-45)

      By the time the federal government’s street-based AIDS research and intervention project targeting Chicago’s drug injectors was well established, nearly one out of four whose blood was tested was positive for HIV antibodies.¹ A growing concern for those whom injectors might be infecting through sex led to my being hired as an ethnographer focusing on their sex partners, which was a new epidemiological risk category. The multicity project was the scientific outgrowth of the late 1980s panic that the epidemic might spread from stigmatized risk groups to the so-called general population. Conceived in Washington, D.C., as the female non-injecting counterpart...

    • 3 Folk Surveillance
      (pp. 46-58)

      If you don’t know anyone who has died of it, believing that AIDS can kill you is like believing in ghosts. That’s what it seemed like in I990 Belize. Occasionally spliced between700 ClubChristian vaudeville-news shows and oldHazelreruns, televised images of gaunt-faced North Americans suffering with AIDS beamed into living rooms up and down the Caribbean coast. A few local people had experienced the confusing array of AIDs-related symptoms, but they did not fit the persistent and inaccurate stereotype linking HIV exclusively to gay white men. In this time and place, AIDS had yet to become a...

    • 4 Prostitution South
      (pp. 59-73)

      Aids in Belize 1990 is a story of sex, money, and travel. There was no significant level of intravenous drug use. Crack-cocaine was nipping at the edges, but alcohol and marijuana continued to be the most popular choices. Although each of these substances may decrease the likelihood of sexual risk reduction, none are directly implicated in transmission. The blood supply was supposedly safe. It was a good time for the government to make AIDS prevention a priority. The epidemic still hadn’t hit hard. If prevention is effective, maybe it never would.

      I thought it would be useful to focus on...

    • 5 Death Rite
      (pp. 77-80)

      Eventually AIDS soaks into all arenas of social life. In 1990 Belize there was still much fear and uncertainty associated with the bodies of the few Garifuna persons who died of AIDS. Families were apparently unprepared to stage the full rites under those circumstances. But someday the passage of some of those who have died of AIDS may also be honored by drumbeat and song. In that spirit, I offer this account.

      They say that the vessels carrying men, women, and children kidnapped from Africa for America’s slave trade foundered off the coast of Honduras before ever reaching shore. Many...

    • 6 Losing It
      (pp. 81-96)

      In big cities like Chicago, many individuals are isolated from families and other community institutions that might help them with economic resources and meaningful rituals in times of trouble. Indeed, isolation may hasten the slide into addiction, a set of psycho-physiological obsessions with their own demanding and often cruel rituals of engagement.

      If it weren’t for its astonishing power of destruction, drug addiction would attract no special interest. Addiction is a challenge of doubtful reward. Getting trapped requires determination. (Many people throw up a lot trying to get used to heroin, for example.) Successful addicts must learn to market their...

    • 7 Illusion and Control
      (pp. 97-118)

      Things don’t have to get completely out of control when you are addicted. One of the first stereotypes the people on southside Chicago burst for me was this notion that when someone gets addicted to drugs they just wither in an increasingly depraved state until they roll up and die. I spoke to people in their sixties and maybe seventies who looked quite fit and who had managed decades-long heroin addictions. When the dose they needed to get high got too expensive, they’d admit themselves for a spell of treatment and reduce it. When they’d start back again, a little...

    • 8 Easter in Livingston
      (pp. 119-127)

      On the evening of Good Friday, we walked the long hill down to town, trying to find the man who fixes motors, ours having cut out part way across the bay between Punta Gorda, Belize, and Livingston, Guatemala. The side street was lined with homes and businesses, few if any people or cars. Cipher and I had arrived the day before. He was a Garifuna Rasta man from around there and knew many people. We were still a ways from town when we saw a woman, a man, no, a woman, sitting on the stone wall near the grocery. She...

    • 9 Desperate
      (pp. 131-147)

      We would like to believe that people who know that they are HIV-positive and understand how HIV is transmitted would do all in their power to avoid infecting others. This belief underlies public health and civil rights thinking about the reasonableness of keeping the identity of those who are infected private. That people mean well and have the wherewithal to protect themselves and others is a belief, not a fact. We really don’t have empirical evidence that it is true. What’s more, we know it is still common for people to engage in unprotected sex and shoot drugs with used...

    • 10 The Positively Arrogant Mishap
      (pp. 148-162)

      I met Liz Locke in Bloomington, Indiana, in I993, the night she first told me this story, the year that Q died. Her story is a marked reversal of the stories from the previous chapter. The sense of malign neglect that runs through the lives of Stitches’ HIV positive friend, Deborah Johnson, and Darnell Collins is dispelled. There are no police, guns, jails, or prisons. It is a story about a coherent community, not colliding individuals in an alienating and confusing world. And unlike the Cuban Rockers, the people of Liz’s story live in a privileged world, where meditative souls...

    • 11 Outtakes
      (pp. 163-169)

      Transforming the deviant into the sacred is one thing when carried out in the spirit of enlightenment, quite another when done with malice. The political unconscious of AIDS is a roiling bloody mess. From it arise possibilities for the sickest imaginations. And as suggested by the two stories from Canadian newspapers that I retell here, opportunities to draw on it are not restricted by gender, class, or race. In the two preceding chapters on crime, the misdeeds of the characters are related to systems of oppression or belief. In contrast, the characters presented here are so twisted, they are beyond...

    • 12 Everything I Have Is Yours
      (pp. 170-194)

      InLove in Taba, a film shown on Cairo television in 1992, three Egyptian men are seduced by Western women at a resort town. The women left them notes saying: “Welcome to the world of AIDS.” You may have heard variants. In the first I heard, the note was written in lipstick (or shaving cream?) on the bathroom mirror. The story encodes differential reactions to the epidemic; it’s never just about AIDS (Fine 1992; Goldstein 1992). The story’s structure is accommodating. Compare the Egyptian film script with a personal experience narrative that my friend’s friend told him about how she...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 195-206)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-216)
  10. Index
    (pp. 217-222)