“Sangaramoorthy, a medical anthropologist with a master’s degree in public health, presents the results of ethnographic research on HIV/AIDs prevention initiatives and Haitian immigrants in Miami. A central argument, one that challenges public health’s reliance on socially constructed categories of difference, is well made and crucial. The use of ethnography to explore both HIV/AIDS surveillance and prevention are novel, thought-provoking topics, as these areas are more often addressed through quantitative research methods. This book will make a fine addition to health determinants and health disparities curricula, and is even accessible to advanced undergraduates. Highly recommended.”


Policy makers have always struggled with the task of offering solutions that are both specific to individuals as well as scalable to the general population. In Treating AIDS, Thurka Sangaramoorthy, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park, challenges this accepted practice as it relates to HIV/AIDS. Sangaramoorthy believes there is a “paradox of prevention” for HIV, in which the popular notion that all people have a social responsibility to prevent HIV is at odds with the reality of severe disparities in disease rates, recommended treatments, and exposure to stigma. And while scholars in the United States continue to focus on categories such as sexuality, drug use, and racial disparities when discussing the treatment and prevention of HIV, allowing the idea of a universal social structure to dictate the approach, foreign ethnographies have evolved to investigate the epidemic’s social, political, and economic effects in locations that have the highest rates of disease. Sangaramoorthy questions not only the universal treatment and prevention approach but the relationship of race and ethnicity to health disparities. Challenging researchers to be cautious about conflating social, biological, and racial differences with disease risk, the author instead suggests we“encourage all re-searchers…to critically examine how these categories of social difference come to be constructed, used, and interpreted in specific social and historical contexts, and how [the researchers]themselves invoke race and ethnicity in their own research and writing.” To explore these concepts, the author examined the Haitian population in Miami, Florida, a population infamously known to have faced public stigma in the early days of AIDS awareness. It is only by understanding how marginalized US populations interact with health interventions, she argues, that we will be able to find appropriate solutions to stop the spread of not only HIV/AIDS but all communicable disease.

Bridget VerretteAssociate Editor, Health Affairs