Sex, drugs, and the spread of HIV/AIDS in Belle Glade, Florida

Clyde B. Mccoy, Lisa R. Metsch, James A. Inciardi, Robert S. Anwyl, Judith Wingerd, Keith Bletzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Belle Glade, Florida, an agricultural community in the heart of the state's vegetable and sugar cane production areas, has the highest cumulative per capita incidence of AIDS in the United States. A risk reduction intervention program was introduced to lessen unsafe AIDS-related behaviors and to generate data on the epidemiology of HIV infection. Initial attention focused on individuals who were believed to be at the core of the transmission pattern, injection drug users and their sexual partners. We found, however, that injection drug use was much less widespread than anticipated. Results suggested that the primary mode of HIV transmission is heterosexual intercourse - mediated by drug taking (particularly crack smoking) and a flourishing sex industry - a finding that is corroborated by the increased and disproportionate rate of heterosexual AIDS in Belle Glade. The prevalence and types of risk behaviors engaged in would not have been completely explained without the use of ethnographic methods including observation of, and lengthy interviews with, the populations at risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-93
Number of pages11
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • Crack cocaine
  • Ethnography
  • Heterosexual transmission
  • HIV-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology


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