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Conference Proceeding

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HIV infections -- Latin America, HIV infections -- Central America


According to a joint report of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization in September 2002 there were approximately 1.4 million HIV+ people in Latin America, and a further 420,000 HIV+ people in the Caribbean. The number of infections had increased by nearly 10% from the previous year in Latin America, and 16% in the Caribbean. While striking, these figures may obscure the diversity of the HIV epidemic in the region. Latin America has a varied pattern of infections, which means that the experience of Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico is quite different from that of Honduras, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Still, during the 1990s much of Latin America witnessed a trend that saw the ratio of men to women with the disease decline, while HIV made increasing inroads amongst the poorest segments of the population. While men having sex with men remained a group at risk, unprotected heterosexual sex became increasingly important in the transmission of HIV, and commentators began to refer to the "feminization" of the epidemic.3 AIDS has devastated the gay community, but it has also spread widely amongst women and young adults, and from major urban centers to the most remote and culturally isolated regions.

Given this fact, one would expect to find a wide and rich range of scholarship in English on AIDS in Latin America. Yet scholarly attention to this topic came late in North America and there is surprisingly little comparative writing in the field.5 Only Cuba and Brazil have received considerable attention from North American scholars because of their HIV/AIDS policies. These countries adopted opposing approaches to dealing with the epidemic, but their policies did share two characteristics: they both successfully contained HIV, and they both generated international controversy. This paper will examine how an international context shaped the development of both countries’ policies on HIV/AIDS.


Paper Prepared for delivery at the 2003 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association Dallas, Texas, March 27-29, 2003

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