The Geography of Risk in Black Chicago
This chapter examines how high rates of Black male incarceration, enabled by the war on drugs that swept tens of thousands of Black men into state prisons, exacerbated the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Black Chicagoans. As HIV/AIDS emerged in the early 1980s, prisons became key sites where the disease could hide and spread. The high rates of Black incarceration created a geography of risk—the sociospatial production of HIV infection—for prisoners and the communities they returned to. Although HIV/AIDS could affect anyone, the combination of geographic (segregation and the war on drugs) and structural forces (mass incarceration, premature death, lack of healthcare, and politics) increased the risk in Black Chicago. The risk of transmission of HIV is fourteen times higher in prison. Diseases like small spaces, and the confined space of Illinois prisons encouraged transmission. This was compounded by vexing political realities the returning prisoners faced at home.
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