the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

Viral Reservoirs

In human behavior on April 30, 2010 at 9:19 am

Current medical research on HIV examines how a dormant virus escapes our immune system and anti-viral drugs—most rest in the brain behind the blood brain barrier.

The study of the social epidemiology of HIV, I think, should similarly shift its focus to cultural viral reservoirs. Most importantly, prisons have become safe havens or even incubators for the virus. A recent Human Right Watch report looked at the spread of HIV in Zambia’s prisons:

Testing for HIV — last measured at 27 percent among inmates — and treatment for AIDS have improved at some prisons, but a ban on condoms in prisons, introduced to discourage intercourse and homosexuality, makes prevention impossible.

Viral reservoirs are scary because a completely healthy HIV-positive individual can quickly develop AIDS when the virus is reactivated; social reservoirs can effect equally healthy countries—preventing us from lowering infection rates below HIV’s epidemiological tipping point, a more realistic public health objective than a vaccine.


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