The global AIDS pandemic furnishes a case study for many of the themes addressed throughout the course. While in the developed West the disease largely afflicts concentrated high-risk groups such as intravenous drug users and the sexually promiscuous, in Southern Africa it is much more a generalized disease of poverty. In countries such as Botswana and Swaziland, the economic and social consequences of the disease have created a vicious circle, whereby the devastation wrought by AIDS severely impedes public health efforts and prepares the way for further infection. One important lesson that has been drawn from the past decades of struggle against the epidemic is therefore to take account of the specific, local characteristics of each affected area, making provision for the social as well as purely biological factors of transmission.
Reading / Film assignment: Verghese, My Own Country
This course consists of an international analysis of the impact of epidemic diseases on western society and culture from the bubonic plague to HIV/AIDS and the recent experience of SARS and swine flu. Leading themes include: infectious disease and its impact on society; the development of public health measures; the role of medical ethics; the genre of plague literature; the social reactions of mass hysteria and violence; the rise of the germ theory of disease; the development of tropical medicine; a comparison of the social, cultural, and historical impact of major infectious diseases; and the issue of emerging and re-emerging diseases.
Course Structure: This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.