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Working to Advance Health Equity in Africa

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Sociology of AIDS

Synopsis

One of the most intriguing aspects of sociohistorical discourses on AIDS has been shifting accounts on social responsibility, morality and sexuality, including our framing (as citizens, researchers, policymakers, and governments) of responses to the disease. More simply, the AIDS epidemic over the 35 years or so of its recent history has been invested with an abundance of descriptions, meanings, and metaphors. While medical scientists and public health specialists have repeatedly argued for constructions of AIDS as an infectious disease that can be managed with appropriate education and control over one’s sexual actions, the cultural and linguistic nature of the disease has produced what Paula Treichler (1987) refers to as a parallel epidemic of meanings, definitions, and attributions: AIDS as “the epidemic of signification.”

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