Human rights, biomedical science, and infectious diseases among South American indigenous groups

A. Magdalena Hurtado, Carol A. Lambourne, Paul James, Kim Hill, Karen Cheman, Keely Baca

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Despite the efforts of international health agencies to reduce global health inequalities, indigenous populations around the world remain largely unaffected by such initiatives. This chapter reviews the biomedical literature indexed by the PubMed database published between 1963 and 2003 on South American indigenous populations, a total of 1864 studies that include 63,563 study participants. Some language family groupings are better represented than are others, and lowland groups are better represented than are highland groups. Very few studies focus on major health threats (e.g., tuberculosis, ifluenza), public health interventions, or mestizo-indigenous epidemiological comparisons. The prevalence rates of three frequently studied infections-parasitism, human T-cell lymphotropic viral infection (HTLV), and hepatitis - are extraordinarily high, but these facts have been overlooked by national and international health agencies. This review underscores the urgent need for interventions based on known disease prevalence rates to reduce the burden of infectious diseases in indigenous communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-665
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Global health initiatives
  • HTLV
  • Hepatitis
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Parasites
  • Prevalence rates
  • South America

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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