The XVII International AIDS Conference takes place this week (Aug 3-8) in Mexico City. This is the first time the bi-annual conference has been held in a Latin American city. As we learn from Shawn Smallman, author of The AIDS Pandemic in Latin America, Latin American countries represent a mosaic of policies, cultures, and infection rates that offer some valuable lessons.
Smallman shows how the varying histories and cultures of the nations of Latin America have influenced the spread of HIV/AIDS there. Examining cultural issues and public policies at the country, regional, and global levels, he discusses why HIV has had such a heavy impact on Honduras, for instance, while leaving the neighboring state of Nicaragua relatively untouched, and why Latin America as a whole has kept infection rates lower than other global regions, such as Africa and Asia. Smallman draws on the most recent scientific research as well as his own interviews with AIDS educators, gay leaders, drug traffickers, crack addicts, transvestites, and doctors in Cuba, Brazil, and Mexico.
For a look at AIDS in the United States and around the world, pick up Lawrence Gostin’s The AIDS Pandemic: Complacency, Injustice, and Unfulfilled Expectations. In these essays, Gostin, a world-renown scholar in AIDS law and policy, confronts controversial issues such as privacy and discrimination, travel and immigration, clinical trials and drug pricing, HIV-infected health care workers, testing and treatment of pregnant women and infants, and needle exchange programs. He shows how HIV/AIDS affects the entire population — infected and uninfected — by influencing our social norms, our economy, and our country’s role as a world leader.
(top photo: XVII International AIDS Conference 2008 in Centro Banamex, Mexico City August 3 2008, photo © International AIDS Society / Mondaphoto)