The AIDS Pandemic in Latin America

By Shawn C. Smallman

304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 9 illus., 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5796-0
    Published: April 2007
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-0678-1
    Published: September 2012

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Of the more than 40 million people around the world currently living with HIV/AIDS, two million live in Latin America and the Caribbean. In an engaging chronicle illuminated by his travels in the region, Shawn Smallman shows how the varying histories and cultures of the nations of Latin America have influenced the course of the pandemic. He demonstrates that a disease spread in an intimate manner is profoundly shaped by impersonal forces.

In Latin America, Smallman explains, the AIDS pandemic has fractured into a series of subepidemics, driven by different factors in each country. Examining cultural issues and public policies at the country, regional, and global levels, he discusses why HIV has had such a heavy impact on Honduras, for instance, while leaving the neighboring state of Nicaragua relatively untouched, and why Latin America as a whole has kept infection rates lower than other global regions, such as Africa and Asia.

Smallman draws on the most recent scientific research as well as his own interviews with AIDS educators, gay leaders, drug traffickers, crack addicts, transvestites, and doctors in Cuba, Brazil, and Mexico. Highlighting the realities of gender, race, sexuality, poverty, politics, and international relations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, Smallman brings a fresh perspective to understanding the cultures of the region as well as the global AIDS crisis.

About the Author

Shawn Smallman is professor of international studies at Portland State University. He is author of Fear and Memory in the Brazilian Army and Society, 1889-1954 (also from the University of North Carolina Press).

For more information about Shawn C. Smallman, visit the Author Page.


"Recommended to anyone interested in Latin American politics and international politics. . . . Makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of contemporary Latin America's problems and serves as a wake-up call to the disease's devastating impact in the region."--The Latin Americanist

"An important contribution to what has been, until now, a scarce literature."--Latin American Politics and Society

“Smallman here attempts to delineate what makes Latin America's experience with [AIDS] unique, offering an overview followed by more focused assessments of regions and countries. . . . Thoroughly researched and well documented, Smallman's work . . . offers many suggestions and sources for further research.”--Library Journal

"Provides a history of AIDS, its initial recognition in 1981, and the evolution in understanding its cause and spread."--Choice

"An ambitious new study of the history of AIDS in the region, will provide . . . anyone interested in the topic with an excellent introduction."--North American Congress on Latin America

"Anyone with an interest in politics, history, language, culture, religion, and, of course, sociology will learn from Dr. Smallman's book, and find it. . . fascinating. . . . One cannot read this book and not be touched by the courage, candor, despair, and hope in it. . . . Demonstrates that in the hands of a great writer statistics, politics, and history come to life."--Doody's Book Review Service