Edited by Amy S. Patterson,
Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues
HIV/AIDS as a Security Threat to
Reviewed By: Javed I. Naqi
“There are men who fight one day and they are good;
Others fight for a year and they are better;
There are men who fight many years and they are very good;
But there are those who fight all their lives:
These are the indispensable one!
Bertold Bretch, in Silvio Rodriquez’s song.
There is a vast literature on the subject of HIV/AIDS and its socio – economic and political implications. These three books under review are continued attempts on the topic by some eminent scholars. As their title indicates, the books share a common overarching theme, but they are complementary to one another in so far as they view the same subject matter through from alternate angles. While the first book throws light on African State HIV/AIDS crisis and States response to the epidemic, the second largely deals with social inequalities associated with infectious diseases and finally the last, examines the security implications of HIV/AIDS on
“The African State and the AIDS Crisis” edited by Amy S. Patterson contains a collection of articles from a variety of world regions, which offers a thorough view of the socio – economic and political implications of HIV/AIDS epidemic in context of African States. This volume also examines the role of the African States in addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis. Through the chapters, the book questions how the African state, which is usually seen to be institutionally weak, limited in resources, and lacking in international power, has responded to HIV/AIDS. Though several of the themes are woven throughout the chapters, the book starts at the sub – national level with an examination of the effect of patriarchy, political culture and civil society on State actions to address HIV/AIDS.
Siplon in his individual piece argues that traditional institutions customary laws affects women vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, at the same time cause women to be underrepresented in AIDS policy making. In the subsequent chapter Farlong and Ball demonstrates that inefficiency on the part of civil societies resulted in ineffective AIDS policy making, thus increasing the vulnerability. Eboko in his write up moves beyond a narrow focus on civil society to illustrate how political cultures shape State actions on AIDS. He asserts that political cultures explain the variety of State responses to AIDS as in the cases of
“The role of the State in HIV/AIDS has varied dramatically. While the governments of
Further it situates a national level analysis of AIDS policies in
Amy S. Patterson in this volume makes use of a broad range of up – to – date literary, scholarly and journalistic, policy and popular sources. The book is of considerable value for its insights into HIV/AIDS pandemic in African States. But some of the concepts outlined in this volume do not always compliment each other. For example, the role of international aid and its effect on the State remain confused. While international aid has undermined the autonomy of the State in decision – making, it has also increased the power of the state versus civil society. Thus creating an overall confusion as to whether the state could be a potential actor for proactive policy making, or whether the State is part of the problem. The conclusion raises questions about the future role of the African States in combating AIDS.
“Infection and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues” edited by Paul Farmer deals with Farmer’s medical experience in
Farmer argues that anthropological analysis falls short in explaining the causation of disease. He takes aim at anthropologists who explain the failure of tuberculosis – control programme among poor Haitians as the result of either an inadequate understanding of the local culture on the part of the practitioners or the supernatural beliefs of the local, or both. Farmer writes that it is not that cultural analysis is unimportant but rather that it misses the point when it does not place cultural perspectives in a socio – economic context. Farmer also derides the anthropological studies of the 1980’s that explained the emergence of AIDS in
“Infections and inequalities: in a wealthy country, the specter of biological warfare, for which there is exceedingly slender evidence, triggers a sort of officially blesses paranoia. In a poor country tightly bound to rich one, real infections continue to kill off the poor, and we are told sternly to look harder for cheaper, more “cost - effective” interventions. At best, those of us working in places like
Farmer highlights a “critical epistemology” of emerging infectious diseases that explores in detail how poverty and inequality cause infectious diseases to emerge in specific local context. Aiming to explain why infectious diseases such as TB and AIDS targets the poor, he fill his new work with harrowing public health case studies of the pathogenic effects of poverty and other grim social conditions. Farmer provides a well referenced analysis of everything from cell – mediated immunity to health care access issues. The studies outlined show that extreme poverty, filth and malnutrition are associated with infectious disease and what attitudes and behaviors contribute to the lack of understanding about disease. This connection finds amplification in the work of Happymon Jacob on ‘The Dangerous Factors: Poverty, Ignorance and Stigma’ (Jacob 2005), but I return to the specific empirical illustration in greater detail later.
In “HIV/AIDS as a Security Threat to
An interesting parallel that may be drawn between Farmer’s work and Happymon’s study is the desire to capture the often neglected aspect of HIV/AIDS pandemic. For instance Farmer’s close examination of poverty and social inequalities and Happymon’s stress on security implications of HIV/AIDS are never studied in greater depth as these authors did, thus raising questions for future research.
The book opens with an overview of
Next he analyzes how poverty, ignorance and the social stigma attached to the disease can prove to be accelerators of the epidemic in the country. He writes that ignorance, poverty and social stigma are catalysts in spreading the disease and act as major roadblocks in combating the threat. He argues that wide spread poverty in
Finally the author attempts to briefly describe the HIV/AIDS situation in Africa and compares the experience of African countries in combating the threat of HIV/AIDS to that of
The authors endeavor to relate HIV/AIDS epidemic to security threat is praiseworthy. I find Happymon’s study and style of presentation commendable, thus making the text highly accessible even to a general reading public. Several relevant statistics and a treasure of sources have been added. This further enhances the value of the book. However, the book is weak in its analysis and does not address issues that would help us to develop our understanding of the long term solution to this crisis. Nor does it addresses the State and non – state responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemics. More important than minor criticism, this piece represents a stellar contribution in the best tradition of applied social science while providing a bridge heal into the world AIDS pandemic. An interesting and though – provoking book, the piece by Happymon raises questions for further research.
In the final analysis, authors of the three books reviewed herein have tried their best to critically examine and analyze the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. We argue that, in the case of the books reviewed herein, HIV/AIDS pandemic is not only causing a devasting socio – economic and political impact on the nation – states but is also posing a great threat to the security of the nation – states. The books highlight the fact that HIV/AIDS poses new challenges to the existence of humanity. The studies try to show that the epidemic can be catastrophic depending how the states respond. The books therefore, make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the HIV/AIDS crisis and the issues to be addressed. It deals with new initiatives and global priorities and their relevance and implications for developing world in general and
Overall the authors of the three books are commended for accomplishing a great task that is to put forth a well argued, well organized and useful contribution on such a sensitive issue.