Disease stigma is an increasingly central topic both on MH Blog and in my own work. It is especially relevant to thinking about public health ethics and public health policy, because the history of public health in the West both in premodern and modern eras reveal a considerable profligacy of such stigma, usually directed at disenfranchised and marginalized groups. As numerous historians of public health have argued (see especially Simon Szreter's wonderful History & Policy project and, of course, his extensive scholarship), part of the significance of studying such history is understanding how relevant it is to our daily practices. Although one dare not make the mistake of thinking that the value of studying history is purely for instrumental reasons, the history of stigma and public health is nevertheless highly significant for understanding current matters in public health policy.
Historians, ethicists, and social scientists studying HIV/AIDS have emphasized this framework in particular because of the abundant evidence of such stigmatization that attended and still attends the disease. Although the literature on this subject is abundant, I post here to note a new article published by Charlene Galarneau in the current issue of Public Health Ethics entitled "‘The H in HIV Stands for Human, Not Haitian': Cultural Imperialism in US Blood Donor Policy." Here is the Abstract:
Ethical reflection on the justice/injustice of past public health policy can inform current and future policy creation and assessment. For eight years in the 1980s, Haitians were prohibited from donating blood in the USA due to their national origin, a supposed risk factor for AIDS. This case study underlines the racial stereotypes and cultural ignorance at play in risk assignment—which simultaneously marked Haitians as risky ‘others’ and excluded them as significant participants in policy-making. This article also discerns Haitian understandings of justice related to this donor policy and explores how dimensions of this past policy relate to current blood donor policy.
The article is highly recommended.