Anthropologist Compares Illicit Drug Use in the U.S. and China

How Are Drug Users Different?

ST. MARY’S CITY, Md. (March 03, 2010) — Medical anthropologist Merrill Singer, an expert in the study of HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, health inequality, and inner city populations, will discuss “Illicit Drug Injection and Syringe Mediated Epidemics: Comparing the USA & China” at 4:45 p.m. Monday, March 8, at Cole Cinema in the Campus Center at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM). Singer is this year’s visiting ethnographer for SMCM’s anthropology department.

Singer’s talk, based on his research on drug use in the U.S. and China, will examine the ways culture shapes HIV risk among injection drug users in two contrasting settings and the implications of these differences for effective health measures. He will address such questions as how and why drug users in the U.S. and China are similar and different and why do the differences matter in responding to drug use-related global epidemics like HIV and hepatitis? “These issues have immediate bearing on contemporary debates about the public utility of anthropology in a world with pressing health and social needs,” Singer said.

Singer is a professor and senior research scientist for the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention at the University of Connecticut; and has published 21 books and more than 200 articles as author, co-author, or editor. He was selected as the first recipient of the Practicing Anthropology Award by the Society for Medical Anthropology in 2004 and received a Career Recognition Award from the Society for the Anthropology of North America in 2005. Singer also is affiliated with Yale University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS.

Anthropology is the study of human behavior in cultural, social, and environmental contexts through time and across societies; medical anthropology applies this approach to the understanding of health, including health risk behavior. Singer’s current research focuses on drug use and HIV risk, and environmental health issues, including the impact of global warming on international health. In addition to the U.S. and China, he has conducted anthropological research in Brazil, Haiti, Israel, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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