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Int J Health Serv. 2004;34(1):155-67.

AIDS, empire, and public health behaviorism.

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Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


Much of the current health approach to designing HIV/AIDS interventions in resource-poor settings involves behavior-change initiatives, particularly those adopting education-based and "culturally competent" frameworks for the reduction of HIV-associated "risk behaviors." This article reviews the evidence and social assumptions behind this approach to preventing HIV transmission, and argues that these approaches are often inadequate or misguided, particularly in their conflation of the concept of "culture" with social circumstances. By analyzing the socioeconomic circumstances that constrain individual agency, and by combining data from prevention literature with analyses of international trade agreements and the controversies over antiretroviral drug distribution, the author argues that the movement of capital and the maintenance of inequality are central to the problems associated with behavior-change initiatives and must be addressed through new paradigms in order to respond appropriately to the global AIDS pandemic. Hardt and Negri's paradigm of "Empire"--that is, examining the system through which social inequalities are maintained not only between countries but also within them--offers prospects for the design of new interventions and targets for public health workers and social movements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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