Richard Parker

Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

International Core Director, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies

Director, Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Health


Past Research: Professor Parker’s research on the social and cultural construction of gender and sexuality, social aspects of HIV/AIDS, and the relation between social inequality, health and disease includes long-term research in Brazil dating back to the early 1980s and shorter comparative studies across the globe. While at the WHO’s Global Program on AIDS from 1989 to 1991, he was involved in the earliest comparative ethnographic studies on HIV/AIDS, and he has continued to apply ethnographic approaches to HIV and sexuality research. He has also held senior leadership positions at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, where he was on the faculty of the Institute of Social Medicine from 1989 to 2005. With support from the Ford, MacArthur and Rockefeller Foundations, he founded the International Working Group on Sexual Behavior Research as part of Harvard University’s AIDS and Reproductive Health Network. He is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociomedical Sciences and Director of the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Health in the Mailman School of Public Health. Parker’s numerous publications include the landmark 1991 Bodies, Pleasures and Passions: Sexual Culture in Contemporary Brazil, a more recent 1999 volume on homosexuality, sexual risk, and globalization, several edited volumes on sexuality and HIV research, and widely cited work on stigma and HIV. Parker is also a Founding Editor of Culture, Health, and Sexuality.

Present Research: Recent projects include: an NSF-supported study of social movements and HIV/AIDS in Brazil; a Ford Foundation-funded assessment of the Brazilian response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic; a five-year R01 on Religious Responses to HIV/AIDS in Brazil, and an innovative Ford-Foundation funded project involving comparative case studies of sexuality, reproductive health and social policy in eight countries (Brazil, Egypt, India, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam) and two inter-governmental agencies (the World Bank and the United Nations). Parker directs the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association, Brazil’s largest non-governmental AIDS service, research and advocacy organization and has shaped international AIDS research activities both at Columbia (where he directs the International Core for the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, an NIMH-funded P30 Center) and globally. Parker co-chaired the Program Committee for Social Science for the 2002 Barcelona International Conference on AIDS, led a 2005 Rockefeller Foundation analysis of social and behavioral research on HIV/AIDS, and was a member of the Program Committee for Social Science for the 2006 Toronto International Conference on AIDS. From 2002 to 2007, he led the Columbia portion of an NICHD-funded partnership (PI: Eleanor Preston-Whyte), to develop capacity for ethnographic research on women, children and families living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and he is Co-PI, together with Jennifer Hirsch, for a similar research capacity building project to take place in Vietnam from 2007 to 2012. With Ford Foundation support, Parker has enhanced Columbia’s research and training capacity, establishing the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Health in SMS and creating an MPH Track in Sexuality and Health. In addition to an important AJPH article on the Brazilian response to AIDS, recent publications include a second edition of the widely-used Culture, Society and Sexuality; an edited volume, together with other SMS faculty, on love and globalization; and Sexuality, Health and Human Rights. In addition, since 2006, he has served as Editor-in-Chief of Global Public Health, a new journal focusing on the social, economic and political dimensions of global health in the 21st century.

Future Research: Parker’s future work explores the role of social movements in responding to key health challenges, exploring how values and moral experience shape approaches to global health in the twenty-first century. A book in progress analyzes three decades of the Brazilian response to HIV and AIDS, exploring the possibilities for framing global health in relation to human rights and social justice and addressing the tensions between this and more technocratic approaches to public health. Another new project explores violence, substance use, and HIV among youth in peri-urban Rio de Janeiro in relation to economic restructuring, post-industrial social changes, and rapid globalization. He will also direct a new program at the Mailman School of Public Health on Globalization and the Politics of Public Health.

Professor Parker's Departmental Biography Page

RParker.jpg Richard Parker
Mailman School of Public Health
722 West 168th Street
5th Floor
New York, New York 10032