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The cultural politics of HIV/ AIDS and the Chinese state in late-twentieth century Yunnan

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Sandra Teresa Hyde

Sexually transmitted diseases have now overtaken tuberculosis to become the third most common category of infectious disease in China after dysentery and hepatitis. By the end of 2001, Chinese public health officials reported estimates of close to 1.5 million people infected with HIV. In this paper, I discuss the Chinese state's distinctions of national and Hanethnic boundaries and the representation of HIV/ AIDS in the southwest province of Yunnan and in particular, the areas bordering Burma and Laos. The spread of HIV/AIDS in Yunnan points to what Appadurai labels as our late-twentieth century border crossings: the mass migrations of peoples, goods, services, and viruses that paint a moving transnational canvas. Using this image of the moving transnational canvas, I turn my attention to how diseases get mapped onto certain places and certain people more readily than others; how the identity of a disease gets spacialized through the discursive construction of borders.

Sandra Teresa Hyde has been involved with China since 1984 and was an HIV/AIDS activist and health educator before she switched careers. She completed her doctorate in medical anthropology at UC Berkeley and went on to do a NIMH postdoctoral training fellowship at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Social Medicine. As of January 2002, she joined the faculty at McGill University in Montreal as an assistant professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Social Studies of Medicine.