Sexual Cultures and Migration in the Era of AIDS: Anthropological and Demographic Perspectives

By Gilbert Herdt | Go to book overview

4
Migration, Sexual Subcultures, and HIV/AIDS in Brazil

RICHARD G. PARKER


Introduction

By late 1993, the Brazilian Ministry of Health had recorded nearly 45,000 cases of AIDS--the highest number of cases reported in Latin America, and among the highest number anywhere in the world. Since its emergence little more than a decade earlier, the AIDS epidemic had taken shape as among the most serious public health problems in the country, and official estimates that more than 750,000 Brazilians are already infected with HIV suggest that the impact of AIDS will continue to grow dramatically in the foreseeable future. Throughout this period, the epidemic has been characterized by its apparently rampant spread- over time, across space, and beyond the boundaries that would seem to divide otherwise disparate social groups.

Yet if the spread of HIV/AIDS in Brazil has undeniably taken place rapidly, it has not in fact occurred randomly (see Parker, 1990; Daniel and Parker, 1991, 1993). On the contrary, as in other societies (see, for example, Jonsen and Stryker, 1993), the spread of HIV and AIDS in Brazil has followed clearly defined and socially determined lines. It has been shaped by the divisions of class and gender, by the processes of urbanization and modernization, by the recent history of economic and political life in Brazil. A careful examination of the ways in which the epidemic has spread in Brazil will thus uncover a range of dynamic social processes that are part and parcel of contemporary Brazilian life--and that must ultimately be more fully understood if we are to begin to make sense of the epidemic, of its profound social and economic impact, and of the possible ways in which we might fight against it ( Parkeret al., 1994).

This chapter seeks to examine the changing shape of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Brazil in relation to current patterns of migration and population movement,

____________________
An important part of the data discussed in this paper comes from a collaborative study of sexual behaviour and behaviour change among men who have sex with men. I am indebted to Jurandir Freire Costa, Katia Guirnaries, Murilo Peixoto, Renato Quemel, and Veriano Terto Jr. for their many contributions to this work. Thanks also to Jane Galvio for conversations that have helped to clarify a number of important issues. Support for this research has been provided at different points in time by the the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Joint Committee on Latin American Studies of the Social Science Research Council, the World Health Organization's Global Programme on AIDS, the Foundation for the Support of Research in the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ), and the Ford Foundation.

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