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Books, Journals, New Media
July 12, 2000

AIDSHow to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available


Copyright 2000 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2000American Medical Association


by Paula A. Treichler, 477 pp, with illus, $64.95, ISBN 0-8223-2286-2, paper, $22.95, ISBN 0-8223-2318-4, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1999.

JAMA. 2000;284(2):241-242. doi:10.1001/jama.284.2.241-JBK0712-2-1

How to Have Theory in an Epidemic is not about AIDS in the medical sense because Treichler's work does not discuss the biomedical properties of the virus or the treatment of HIV-seropositive patients. Rather, this book advocates understanding the cultural epidemic that occurs with the infectious epidemic, what the author identifies as an "epidemic of signification."

From this perspective, there is no way "to understand the epidemic's history, address its future and learn its lessons" without understanding the intertwined biological and cultural dimensions. Without considering the proliferation of cultural meanings that have been written and rewritten as a result of the biological manifestations of HIV, we can learn no new lessons for the next epidemic, which too will be defined and shaped by culture.

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