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Book and Media Reviews
July 21, 2010

AIDS, Sex, and Culture: Global Politics and Survival in Southern Africa

JAMA. 2010;304(3):352-355. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.998

Medicine in the United States is making an important contribution to global health development, but few practitioners have a deep understanding of the cultures and settings in which they work abroad. Ida Susser, an anthropologist born in South Africa, has studied the evolution of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS epidemic over the course of decades and has now written AIDS, Sex, and Culture: Global Politics and Survival in Southern Africa. Few practitioners promoting development of HIV treatment programs know anything about Zulu marriage payments, the difference between Xhosa “School and Reds,” or the politics of the Treatment Action Campaign—all issues that Susser demonstrates are critical to understanding the epidemic in Southern Africa. With Richard Lee, who has worked among the Kung San of the Kalahari for decades, and her team of South African graduate students, Susser brings together a rich study that goes beyond the epidemiologic categories of vulnerable populations to examine the complex conditions in which individuals become infected with the virus, then struggle to survive.

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