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Changing the color of HIV/AIDS prevention : black community activism, U.S. Public Health, and the biopolitics of race, sexuality and citizenship


The dissertation examines the salience of race over the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. In contrast to the first decade of the epidemic, AIDS is now increasingly seen as a disease of color; black Americans are central objects of U.S. public health efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. Additionally, black Americans' activism and advocacy is an important and influential feature in the contemporary configuration of the HIV prevention field. While it may be reasonable to assume that the changing racialization of the HIV/AIDS discourse and the prevention field was simply inevitable given advancements in epidemiological and scientific knowledge of the disease, this explanation is insufficient. The dissertation focuses on the practices and politics of public health and biomedicine, media, sexuality and race that are intimately intertwined with producing and constructing responses to HIV/AIDS. The dissertation finds that a discursive and bureaucratic shift prompted by multiple sources--including, black Americans' activism and advocacy--occurred in the early 1990s. This shift is conceptualized as demarcating two disease regimes of HIV/AIDS in relation to black American experience: the regime of exclusion (1981-early 1990s) and the regime of inclusion (early 1990s-present day). Within the first regime, dominant images, practices and discourses of public health, biomedicine and the media constructed a representation of HIV/AIDS, which effectively rendered black Americans excluded or, virtually missing. Conversely, the regime of inclusion designates an ongoing period where black Americans are central actors, and black Americans' concerns and cultural products are increasingly incorporated, within the HIV/ AIDS discourse, and more specifically in the field of HIV prevention. Building on a wide range of scholarship in the social and cultural studies of HIV/AIDS, race studies, science studies; and governmentality studies, the dissertation documents and analyzes a multiplicity of socio-political and cultural forces that helped to transform the HIV/AIDS disease regime of black American exclusion to one of black American inclusion. The dissertation is based on data derived from content and discursive analysis of public health publications, media and secondary scholarly sources; interviews with public health administrators and black American HIV/AIDS activists in Atlanta, Georgia; and participant observation at HIV/AIDS conference

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