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AIDS: Fear and Hope (Coursera)

The basic biology of the virus, HIV, and the disease it causes, AIDS. The economic, social and political factors that determine who gets sick and who remains healthy, who lives and who dies. The progress of scientific research and medical treatments. The reasons for hope; the reasons for fear.

This course is multidisciplinary, drawing on knowledge from the natural and social sciences, the humanities, the arts, and various professions including medicine and social work. The course deals with a wide range of subjects from the biology of HIV and the medical treatment of AIDS to the politics, economics, and sociology of a world-wide epidemic. We also discuss activism, artistic creation in the midst of a terrible disaster, and complex phenomena of sexuality, class, religion, global politics, and culture as they bear on HIV and AIDS.

The core idea of this course is that diseases cannot generally be understood simply as biological/medical entities. Economics, politics, culture, social patterns, law, issues of justice are all factors that affect the nature of a disease, its appearance in populations, and the health outcomes of its victims. This is especially true for HIV/AIDS.

The schedule of topics will be described in our weekly announcements. Here is a summary:

– Memories of the early years of the epidemic

– Narratives from HIV-positive people

– Treating HIV infections; caring for HIV-positive people

– The responses of four national presidents to the crisis

– The transmission of HIV, sexually and non-sexually

– The feminization of the epidemic

– HIV and the law

– Testing for HIV

– Prevention

– Vaccine and cure research