Jamaicans are primed to contend with all who speak ill of their country. As someone who grew up and lived in Jamaica until my midtwenties—although I now live in the US—I understand how the culture reacts to criticism.
[Editor’s note: Gideon Mendel’s photo essay “Looking AIDS in the Face” is not available online due to rights restrictions. It is only available in the print issue. To order a copy of the Winter 2006 issue, please click here. To subscribe and [...]
One October evening in 2001, in an impoverished shantytown in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, David Potse entered the house of a former girlfriend, and raped her 9-month-old daughter. The child was later taken to a nearby hospital, where her internal injuries were found to be so severe that she nearly died. The nurses nicknamed her “Baby Tshepang” which means “have hope.” After a series of operations, she miraculously survived. Potse was apprehended soon afterwards. At his trial, he said that he was out drinking on the night of the assault. However, DNA tests showed his semen was present in the child’s rectum, and his current girlfriend testified that she walked in on him during the rape. Potse was sentenced to life in prison in 2002.
In 2001, a group of scholars at University of California, San Francisco came up with a scheme that they hoped would protect African women from HIV. They had been working in Zimbabwe, a poor, politically troubled nation in Southern Africa, where the epidemic had killed more than a million people over two decades. Virtually everyone in Zimbabwe was aware of AIDS. The country had been exposed to anti-AIDS media campaigns since the 1980s and a school-based AIDS education program since 1994. Nevertheless, by 2001, around a quarter of all Zimbabwean adults were infected with HIV, and the virus was spreading rapidly, especially among teenage girls. It was urgent for researchers like them to come up with a solution.
We drive out of Niamey, the capital of Niger, through a mishmash of taxis and trucks and camels and goats and endless streams of people walking. After about ten kilometers, we stop at a checkpoint and pay a toll. A sticker is affixed t [...]
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.