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Philip Alcabes

Philip Alcabes is associate professor at the School of Health Sciences, Hunter College of the City University of New York. An infectious-disease epidemiologist who has written extensively on the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS and other community-acquired infections, in recent years he has consulted on AIDS-prevention projects in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union, and studied social aspects of the AIDS pandemic. His work has appeared in the American Scholar, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsday, and the Washington Post.


Heart of Darkness: AIDS, Africa, and Race

Winter 2006 | Essays

Race, as much as science, has been central to the growth of medicine and public health as professions in America. Nineteenth-century physicians distinguished themselves from their competitors in the healing business, cornering the market in part through their embrace of scientific approaches to cure; today, similarly, the medical profession holds off competition from alternative therapies by indulging in “evidence-based medicine.” But, from early on, one of medicine’s less publicized attractions was its capacity to tender rationales for our obsession with race. White people’s suspicion that blacks were morally inferior was perfectly satisfied by prominent physicians’ assertions that African Americans had a greater propensity for disease, imaginary as that propensity turned out to be.