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AIDS Alibis: Sex, Drugs, and Crime in the Americas

Stephanie Kane

Publication Year: 1998

AIDS Alibis tackles the cultural landscape upon which AIDS, often accompanied by poverty, drug addiction, and crime, proliferates on a global scale. Stephanie Kane layers stories of individuals and events -- from Chicago to Belize City, to cyberspace -- to illustrate the paths of HIV infection and the effects of environment, government intervention, and social mores. Linking ordinary yet kindred lives in communities around the globe, Kane challenges the assumptions underlying the use of police and courts to solve health problems.

The stories reveal the dynamics that determine how the policy decisions of white-collar health care professionals actually play out in real life. By focusing on life-changing social problems, the narratives highlight the contradictions between public health and criminal law. Look at how HIV has transformed our social consciousness, from intimate touch to institutional outreach. But, Kane argues, these changes are dwarfed by the United States's refusal to stop the war on drugs, in effect misdirecting resources and awareness.

AIDS Alibis combines empirical and interpretive methods in a path-breaking attempt to recognize the extent to which coercive institutional practices are implicated in HIV transmission patterns. Kane shows how th e virus feeds on the politics of inequality and indifference, even as it exploits the human need for intimacy and release.

Published by: Temple University Press

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pp. ix-x

Thanks to the people whose voices give life to this book. Thanks to the institutions that provided funding for research and writing: the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research; Indiana University; the Rockefeller Foundation and the State University of New York at Buffalo; Fulbright Hays and the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars; and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (National AIDS Demonstration Research Grant 5R-r8- DAO-5285)...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-20

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is one of a host of threats to our species. Toxicity is an everyday immune event, so close to home that fluids are fighting flesh inside our bodies. Future archaeologists will date baby boomers by the radioactive strontium in their bones. We have immune disease and autoimmune disease; we have homicide and suicide; we have...

Part I. Work

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2. Prostitution North

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pp. 23-45

By the time the federal government's street-based AIDS research and intervention project targeting Chicago's drug injectors was well established, nearly one out of four whose blood was tested was positive for HIV antibodies.1 A growing concern for those whom injectors might be infecting through sex led to my being hired as an ethnographer focusing on their sex partners, which...

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3. Folk Surveillance

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pp. 46-58

If you don't know anyone who has died of it, believing that AIDS can kill you is like believing in ghosts. That's what it seemed like in 1990 Belize. Occasionally spliced between 700 CLub Christian vaudeville-news shows and old Hazel reruns, televised images of gaunt-faced North Americans suffering with AIDS beamed into living rooms up and down the Caribbean coast...

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4. Prostitution South

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pp. 59-74

AIDS in Belize 1990 is a story of sex, money, and travel. There was no significant level of intravenous drug use. Crack-cocaine was nipping at the edges, but alcohol and marijuana continued to be the most popular choices. Although each of these substances may decrease the likelihood of sexual risk reduction, none are directly implicated in transmission. The blood supply was supposedly safe...

Part II. Escape

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5. Death Rite

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pp. 77-80

Eventually AIDS soaks into all arenas of social life. In 1990 Belize there was still much fear and uncertainty associated with the bodies of the few Garifuna persons who died of AIDS. Families were apparently unprepared to stage the full rites under those circumstances. But someday the passage of some of those who have died of AIDS may also be honored by drumbeat and song...

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6. Losing It

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pp. 81-96

In big cities like Chicago, many individuals are isolated from families and other community institutions that might help them with economic resources and meaningful rituals in times of trouble. Indeed, isolation may hasten the slide into addiction, a set of psycho-physiological obsessions with their own demanding and often cruel rituals of engagement...

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7. Illusion and Control

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pp. 97-118

Things don't have to get completely out of control when you are addicted. One of the first stereotypes the people on southside Chicago burst for me was this notion that when someone gets addicted to drugs they just wither in an increasingly depraved state until they roll up and die. I spoke to people in their sixties and maybe seventies who looked quite fit and who had managed decades-long heroin addictions...

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8. Easter in Livingston

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pp. 119-128

On the evening of Good Friday, we walked the long hill down to town, trying to find the man who fixes motors, ours having cut out part way across the bay between Punta Gorda, Belize, and Livingston, Guatemala. The side street was lined with homes and businesses, few if any people or cars. Cipher and I had arrived the day before...

Part III. Crime

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9. Desperate

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pp. 131-147

We would like to believe that people who know that they are HlV-positive and understand how HIV is transmitted would do all in their power to avoid infecting others. This belief underlies public health and civil rights thinking about the reasonableness of keeping the identity of those who are infected private. That people mean well and have the wherewithal to protect themselves and others is a belief, not a fact...

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10. The Positively Arrogant Mishap

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pp. 148-162

I met Liz Locke in Bloomington, Indiana, in I993, the night she first told me this story, the year that Q died. Her story IS a marked reversal of the stories from the previous chapter. The sense of malign neglect that runs through the lives of Stitches' HIV positive friend, Deborah Johnson, and Darnell Collins is dispelled. There are no police, guns, jails, or prisons...

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11. Outtakes

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pp. 163-169

Transforming the deviant into the sacred is one thing when carried out in the spirit of enlightenment, quite another when done with malice. The political unconscious of AIDS is a roiling bloody mess. From it arise possibilities for the sickest imaginations. And as suggested by the two stories from Canadian newspapers that I retell here, opportunities to draw on it are not restricted by gender, class, or race...

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12. Everything I Have Is Yours

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pp. 170-194

In Love in Taba, a film shown on Cairo television in 1992, three Egyptian men are seduced by Western women at a resort town. The women left them notes saying: "Welcome to the world of AIDS." You may have heard variants. In the first I heard, the note was written in lipstick (or shaving cream?) on the bathroom mirror...


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pp. 195-206


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pp. 207-216


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pp. 217-222

E-ISBN-13: 9781439906132

Publication Year: 1998