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African immigrant damnation syndrome: The case of Charles Ssenyonga

Abstract

The category AIDS criminal arose in the early 1990s with the transference of the innocent victim/guilty carrier binary from theology and epidemiology into the domain of law. The case of Charles Ssenyonga, a Ugandan immigrant who became Canada’s most notorious AIDS criminal, reveals the revival of nineteenth-century racist and heterosexist discourses in the War on AIDS in the late twentieth century. Though Ssenyonga died in 1993 before a legal judgment could be rendered in his case, Canadian journalist June Callwood (1995a) condemned him on moral grounds in her bestseller Trial Without End: A Shocking Story of Women and AIDS. As a Black version of the legendary lady-killer Don Giovanni, Ssenyonga emerged from Callwood’s feminist fable as an incarnation of “African AIDS.” The discursive isolation of Ssenyonga as an exotic “other” in media coverage of his trial corresponded to the biological isolation of his potently African strain of HIV.

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Correspondence to James Miller.

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Miller, J. African immigrant damnation syndrome: The case of Charles Ssenyonga. Sex Res Soc Policy 2, 31 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2005.2.2.31

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2005.2.2.31

Key words

  • AIDS criminal
  • African AIDS
  • racism
  • heterosexism
  • miscegenation