Long years ago, many of us read The Ugly American and saw how often the blindness that the U.S. shows in its foreign ventures could often turn into something not only unintended but completely opposite from what was planned. Still catching up with my inbox for the last few days, I found a link to a news story about the need for bicycles in fighting AIDS in Africa. The story makes a simple point that strictures on how the billions being sent to Africa to fight the epidemic seem to miss the point about existing infrastructure and the capacity to use the funds as they might be used in the West. Bicycles are a means of entertainment and exercise here; in Africa, they are a means of transportation.
This cultural blindness is seen here at home, too, is it not? The politically dominant seek to end the epidemic in their own terms without regard for the realities of how prevention messages or systems of care need to be shaped to fit the "infrastructure and capacity" of the communities that need those messages or systems.
On one of my dinkarounds on the web, I ran across a couple of interesting presentations by Dr. Rose Jones, a medical anthropologist who works with the Texas Oklahoma AIDS Education and Training Center. Dr. Jones, a delightful speaker, presents some challenges in Sex, Culture & AIDS and Women, Culture & HIV/AIDS. (You'll get more out of the presentations if you download them so that you can read the speaker's notes.) Jones' work is a good starting point to begin thinking about how our cultural blindness is limiting and hindering our ability to effectively address the HIV epidemic in Texas.