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Punishing Disease

HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness

Trevor Hoppe (Author)


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From the very beginning of the epidemic, AIDS was linked to punishment. Calls to punish people living with HIV—mostly stigmatized minorities—began before doctors had even settled on a name for the disease. Punishing Disease looks at how HIV was transformed from sickness to badness under the criminal law and investigates the consequences of inflicting penalties on people living with disease. Now that the door to criminalizing sickness is open, what other ailments will follow? With moves in state legislatures to extend HIV-specific criminal laws to include diseases such as hepatitis and meningitis, the question is more than academic.
List of Illustrations

Introduction. Punishment: AIDS in the Shadow of an American Institution

Part One: Punitive Disease Control

1. Controlling Typhoid Mary
2. “HIV Stops with Me”
3. The Public Health Police

Part Two: The Criminalization of Sickness

4. Making HIV a Crime
5. HIV on Trial
6. Victim Impact
Conclusion. Punishing Disease

Appendix 1. Methods: On Analyzing the Anatomy of a Social Problem
Appendix 2. State HIV Bills
Trevor Hoppe is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and a coeditor of The War on Sex. 
"What happens when a nation seduced by carceral solutions confronts a dreaded disease linked to sex and drugs? Trevor Hoppe’s thorough and well-documented analysis explains how and why legislators, courts, public health officials, and police across the United States have 'criminalized sickness' in the case of HIV/AIDS. Punishing Disease is a wake-up call about the dangers of punitive approaches to stopping the spread of disease."—Steven Epstein, author of Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge and Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research
"Sociologists have examined a plethora of human conditions that have been medicalized and treated as illness. This well-researched book examines a case that flips medicalization on its head: how HIV/AIDS, a devastating disease, became criminalized, and with what consequences. Trevor Hoppe’s clear analysis sheds important new light on how the meanings of disease and illness have significant social, political, and health consequences."—Peter Conrad, Harry Coplan Professor of Social Sciences, Brandeis University

"We might like to think that public health policy in the twenty-first century is enlightened and guided by science. Trevor Hoppe’s Punishing Disease shatters any such illusion. In this carefully researched and meticulously argued book, Hoppe shows how fear and stigma have combined with Americans' belief that people are responsible for their own health and our increasing reliance on the criminal justice system to effectively criminalize HIV status. This important book should be read not only by those who are interested in America’s response to HIV but also by everyone who cares about public health policy."—Wendy E. Parmet, Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Health and Policy Law, Northeastern University

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