Hunter, Susan

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Hunter, Susan






Medical anthropologist and demographer. Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, lecturer, 1989-95; consultant to international health organizations, including UNICEF, USAID, and UNAIDS.


Rockefeller Foundation fellow, 1989; Black Death: AIDS in Africa was named one of the top five books about AIDS by the London Times.


Black Death: AIDS in Africa, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003, published as Who Cares? AIDS in Africa, Palgrave Macmillan (Basingstoke, England), 2003.

AIDS in Asia: A Continent in Peril, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2004.

AIDS in America, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2006.

Author, with others, of the first two editions of Children on the Brink (orphan study), 1997 and 2000; author of Reshaping Societies: HIV/AIDS and Social Change (resource planning book); contributor to periodicals and Web sites, including You and AIDS at


Public health consultant Susan Hunter first became aware of the scope of the AIDS crisis in 1989, when she traveled to Uganda on a fellowship in demography. AIDS first appeared in Uganda, where Hunter taught, worked with community groups, and counted orphans for six months in the Rakai district. From her experiences, Hunter wrote her first AIDS study, Black Death: AIDS in Africa. In this volume, she explains that AIDS is worse than the plague known as the Black Death that occurred during the twelfth and thirteen centuries. She writes that "every year and a half, AIDS claims more lives than the Holocaust—and with the pace accelerating, there will be a new holocaust every year.… When I compared it to other epidemics, I found that already 70 million people have been infected with HIV and those estimates are probably low. So by 2010, more people will have died of AIDS than died in the Black Death. That was 93 million people."

Hunter notes that AIDS is the first epidemic of a new disease to occur since the 1400s, and she predicts that it will continue to plague mankind for centuries to come. She follows the course of the disease in other countries, including Zambia, where she met an elderly couple who were caring for the twenty-one surviving children of their own six children who had died of AIDS, a disease whose African victims are predominantly black but which crosses all socioeconomic boundaries. Hunter feels that the lack of access by Africans to appropriate drugs that are affordable only to Westerners is a form of genocide. She also studies evolutionary biology and other sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhea, epidemics of which were spread by sailors who traversed the globe.

In AIDS in Asia: A Continent in Peril, Hunter studies the disease as it has affected the populations of Asian countries that include Papua New Guinea, Laos, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In reviewing this volume in the Lancet, Jonathan Watts contended that Hunter concentrates more on the politics of AIDS and less on data and fieldwork. She writes of the spread of Asian AIDS among sex workers, including children, and drug users and ethnic minorities, all of whom are disenfranchised people without political power. She cites instances she labels as discrimination accelerated to genocide that she contends have occurred in China. Hunter, furthermore, feels the number of AIDS cases in Asia are understated.

AIDS in America uses examples to illustrate how the disease is striking a broad range of people, including Paige Swanberg, an average young woman from Montana who discovered she was infected when she tried to join the military. Hunter lays the blame for the epidemic in America on a number of factors, including government drug policy that crowds prisons where HIV is spread, the failing support for women's reproductive rights, cuts in funding of housing and other programs for AIDS sufferers, and the abstinence-only programs promoted by the religious right. "Hunter is clearly outraged by what she sees, and her language reflects her wrath," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Hunter skewers the government for its lack of compassion, both the political left and right, as well as the drug industry. Booklist reviewer Donna Chavez concluded that AIDS in America is "eye-opening reading."



Hunter, Susan, Black Death: AIDS in Africa, Palgrave Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003.


Africa, spring, 2006, Jerome Teelucksingh, review of Who Cares? AIDS in Africa, p. 290.

Booklist, March 1, 2006, Donna Chavez, review of AIDS in America, p. 50.

Emerging Infectious Diseases, April, 2006, Elizabeth Pisani, review of AIDS in Asia: A Continent in Peril, p. 713.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2006, review of AIDS in America, p. 72.

Lancet, April 2, 2005, Jonathan Watts, review of AIDS in Asia, p. 1221.

Library Journal, March 1, 2006, Tina Neville, review of AIDS in America, p. 110.


Solidarity and Action against the HIV Infection in India Web site, (September 12, 2006), review of Black Death: AIDS in Africa.

Voice of America Web site, news/voa/ (February 2, 2004), Joe De Capua, review of Black Death.