In This Review

In the Land of God and Man: Confronting Our Sexual Culture

In the Land of God and Man: Confronting Our Sexual Culture
By Silvana Paternostro
304 pp, E. P. Dutton, 1998
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This book is a revelation that stands out from the usual academic claptrap on gender. Paternostro interviewed doctors, sociologists, gay activists, transvestites, prostitutes, street kids, and wives throughout South America to confirm a startling fact: a housewife in Latin America has a higher risk of contracting aids than a prostitute does. In fact, 80 percent of female HIV-positive patients (mostly monogamous wives) were infected by their husbands, who often have unprotected sex with other men. While prostitution and male bisexuality are routine at every level of male society, women pay for their husbands' carelessness with their own lives. Paternostro paints vivid portraits of her native town and privileged upbringing in Colombia, the grubby municipal building in Rio de Janeiro where she buys pizza for street kids in exchange for stories about their clients, a Guatemalan family brought down by aids, and the Third Congress of Liberated Transvestites. With the skill of a novelist, the legwork of a good reporter, and the sober facts of a statistician, Paternostro has written a powerful and passionate indictment of Latin American sexual culture.