For World AIDS Day 2012 I post an edited excerpt of a speech I gave a decade ago to the Second Scholarly Conference on Women and Work: Health and Wellness held at the Center for Worker Education in New York City. I ask whether HIV can search for the most vulnerable populations.
Identifying trends in health and disease doesn’t mean we know how these patterns came about.
Why, for instance, is HIV/AIDS so prevalent in Africa? It’s where the virus first emerged, of course. Cases have had more time there to accumulate. But at 22 million HIV cases, initial conditions are hardly explanation enough. An array of interacting socioeconomic circumstances and cultural happenstance locks millions of people to precarious fates (and, in this case, greater risk of infection). Many of Africa’s countries are the poorest in the world and the workaday people live in are channeled in such a way that the term ‘choice’, at the heart of much public health commentary, loses its connotation of free will.