Date of Degree

9-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Anthropology

Advisor

Ida Susser

Committee Members

Murphy Halliburton

Michael Blim

Emily Martin

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology

Keywords

HIV/AIDS, activism, gender, race, inequality, New York

Abstract

Since its official discovery in 1981, the story of HIV/AIDS has been a story of inequality. Not only has the virus spread more easily among those marginalized due to their gender, race, or class, but AIDS activism itself has tended to elevate the voices and needs of the more powerful over those with less privilege. While we might point to 1981, when the CDC issued its first official report on HIV, as the official “beginning” of HIV/AIDS, where and how does the story end? This dissertation examines one attempt to bring the story to a close: New York State’s “Ending the Epidemic” campaign.

Based on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork (October 2014 – December 2015) throughout New York State, this dissertation draws on participant-observation and interviews with government officials, researchers, physicians, activists, and other advocates either directly involved in or affected by the campaign to answer the question: How do the fault lines of society come out at the "end"? In addressing this question, the study draws on the theoretical literature on social activism, knowledge creation and management, pharmaceuticals, and gender, race, and sexuality to examine how inequalities are either perpetuated or transformed in the context of Ending the Epidemic. It finds that, while many longstanding inequalities are still evident in the campaign, particularly concerning women and people of color, Ending the Epidemic has also served as an opportunity for some people representing historically marginalized groups to gain a stronger voice in the field. These include, most notably, men of color who have sex with other men. However, young people represent a group that is particularly vulnerable to HIV, but is not yet adequately engaged by Ending the Epidemic. Not having grown up with the fear of AIDS instilled in earlier generations and with little voice in high-level political platforms, young people present both a challenge and an opportunity for the Ending the Epidemic campaign to reach beyond the usual suspects and address under-recognized inequalities.

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