Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005


Eastern townships



Quebec regions


Important people/Theories


BACK TO Roxanne's homepage



AIDS as an Intercultural Disease

by Christelle Lamontagne

Although AIDS is a young disease (it is only about 25 years old), it has done such damage that it is considered to be one of the most decimating virus of the 20th century and, at the rate that it is going, the 21st century. Because scientists have found a way to delay the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from transforming into full-blown AIDS, the general population in America feels that the virus is under control, and that the risks are now minimal. On the contrary, until now, no nation has succeeded in stopping the spread of the virus (Singer 16). However, many studies continue to be conducted on the spread of the virus, and it is now viewed as a social, economical, and political problem as much as a medical one.

            AIDS was first discovered in America, and it was noticed primarily in homosexual men and drug users (WCC 6). In the 1980’s, the population was more than willing to stereotype these people, and therefore they felt that the disease only touched those that were on the margins of society. However, over the years, unprotected heterosexual sexual intercourse became the first cause of the spreading of the disease (Singer 16). Also, when starting their prevention program, the United States failed to target the groups that needed more help. For example, depending on geography, sharing needles would be more or less of an issue. Also, they focused so much on homosexual men that they did not plan on the disease spreading through heterosexual relations. Singer also brings forth the theory that drug laws were not enforced only to stop the disease, but were installed mainly because of geopolitics and internal racism (20). This is why it is important to consider the political and economical context of the disease.

            AIDS has been studied, in the developed world, in relation to different aspects: social classes, gender, sexuality, and race, just to name a few. AIDS is said to spread according to different factors called “vectors of disadvantage.” These include unemployment, poverty, malnutrition, poor housing and sanitary conditions, discrimination (racial and sexual), and unfit medical care. In the United States, for example, “ethnicity is an important predictor of infection” (Singer 17). African-Americans and Latinos, for example, are more at risk than Caucasians. However, it is important not to generalise because one of the problems sociologists have encountered is that it is impossible to identify a homogenous group infected by the disease.

            In the developing world, AIDS is decimating entire populations. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 70 percent of the people infected with AIDS live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty-two countries in this area have over ten percent of infected population (WCC 9). South and Southeast Asia are two regions where AIDS is also considered pandemic. The factors of the spreading of the disease are different than those in the developed world. In those regions, political situations as well as the position of women in the culture are very important. Indeed, it has been noted that ``disease epidemics generally erupt in times of crisis, and AIDS is no exception`` (qtd in Singer 19). Small wars in Africa make it difficult for medical care to reach far-out locations. Also, when women do not have control over their bodies and contraception, they cannot make decisions that could prevent the spreading of the disease.

            All in all, AIDS has become a world problem. Even though it has first been noticed in the United States, it has now crossed all boundaries. I believe that leaders of countries in the developed world should start seeing the disease as a universal matter. Globalization has reinforced individualism and it is only by studying how the virus has touched different cultures that we can find solutions that will correspond to the needs of all.

Works Cited

Singer, Merrill, ed. The Political Economy of AIDS. Amityville, N.Y.: Baywood Publications, 1998.

World Council of Churches. Facing Aids : the Challenge, the Churches' Response : a WCC Study Document. Geneva, Switzerland : WCC Publications, 1997.