Treating AIDS: Politics of Difference, Paradox of Prevention By Thurka Sangaramoorthy

As powerfully as Paul Farmer began the story of the stigmatization of Haitian Americans vis-à-vis HIV/AIDS, Sangaramoorthy reveals how the racialization of Haitians continues to be inscribed in a viral idiom. In this beautifully written account that will engage multiple audiences, constraints on how bodies can be voiced generate novel and unsettling insights that push the boundaries of medical anthropology and public health and reveal a frightening dimension of Miami’s status as a global city.

— Charles L. Briggs, University of California, Berkeley
Sangaramoorthy’s precise and compelling book makes an excellent intervention into medical anthropology, particularly immigrant health, HIV/AIDS research, health disparities, and theories on the production and calculation of risk.

—Alyshia Gálvez, Lehman College

In Treating AIDS, Thurka Sangaramoorthy examines the everyday practices of HIV/AIDS prevention in the United States from the perspective of AIDS experts and Haitian immigrants in south Florida. Using in-depth ethnographic data, she underscores the difference between the global response to this public health crisis—where everyone is implicated as a potential carrier of risk—and the uncontested existence of racial and ethnic disparities in HIV/AIDS rates, access to treatment and care, and, especially, the stigma borne by carriers of the disease. Everyone has an equal risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, Sangaramoorthy notes, but the ways in which people experience and manage that risk—and the disease itself—is highly dependent on race, ethnic identity, sexuality, gender, immigration status, and other notions of “difference.”

Sangaramoorthy documents in detail the work of AIDS prevention programs and their effect on the health and well-being of Haitians, a transnational community long plagued by the stigma of being associated in public discourse as disease carriers. By tracing the ways in which public knowledge of AIDS prevention science circulates from sites of surveillance and regulation, to various clinics and hospitals, to the social worlds embraced by this immigrant community, she ultimately demonstrates the ways in which AIDS prevention programs help to reinforce categories of individual and collective difference, and continue to sustain the persistent and pernicious idea of race and ethnicity as risk factors for the disease.

THURKA SANGARAMOORTHY is an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Maryland at College Park.