Monday, June 27, 2011

AIDS and the World System

In honor of National HIV Testing Day...

I mentioned before that there is a strong connection between disease and political economic processes.  For one thing, disease often follows lines of marginalization and exploitation.  Not only does it tend to appear within conditions of poverty (which, let us not forget, is always caused by exploitation), but also among stigmatized populations, in areas where infrastructure has been weakened, where the environment has been degraded due to industrial development, etc.  The situation is magnified when certain groups of people become solely associated with a particular disease and attributed all the blame, as a result of their "primitive," "backward," or "sinful" behavior.  (AIDS has been branded as a gay disease and a black disease, for example.)

It is also interesting to consider the extent to which patterns of disease are correlated with large-scale economic cycles.  For example, it seems more than pure coincidence that the Black Death, one of the largest multi-regional epidemics of disease in history, occurred on the heels of an economic downturn that was the prelude to the one of the greatest periods of economic stagnation the world has yet seen.

It is reasonable to suppose that we are currently headed for a comparable phase of stagnation.  (It is more than a simple "recession" or "downturn" or blip on the radar.)  So, it is also interesting to consider that the AIDS epidemic came to light near the beginning of this latest period of economic stagnation, which started in the 1970s.  Coincidence?

At any rate, it's an interesting thought.

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