Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Aids - political and stereotypical identity in 1980's America

AIDS stigma and discrimination exist worldwide but especically in the US. They exist to this day but were even more apparant during the 1980's when HIV and AIDS awareness was poor, treatment non-existent and the numbers of infected individuals suddenly increased exponentially. Discrimination towards people with HIV and AIDS occurs alongside other forms of stigma and discrimination, such as racism, stigma based on physical appearance, homophobia or misogyny and can be directed towards those involved in what are considered socially unacceptable activities such as prostitution or drug use.

As the 1980s progressed, the gay and lesbian community increasingly realized the devastating impact of AIDS on gay men. AIDS was first discovered among gay men in 1981. As the gay male community became aware of AIDS, which had been first labelled GRID (gay-related immune deficiency), it responded politically.A band of gay men met and formed the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), the legacy of which is apparant today as it continues to pioneer HIV prevention, care and advocacy. A link to thier website detailing their mission aims, background and what they believe, can be found here.

An example of the poor interaction from the government regarding AIDS recognition, treatment and prevention programs during the late 1970's and 1980's became apparant after the assasination of Harvey Milk. Milk's murderer was convicted of manslaughter and received a light sentence and San Francisco's gay community erupted in a riot outside City Hall. The light sentence indicated that Milk almost 'deserved' his punishment of contracting AIDS.

The fact that HIV could be transmitted by tainted needles or botched blood transfusions did not enter people's thought proccesses during the 1980's. People believed gay men were wholly responsible for their disease through promiscuity and unsafe sex. After the realisation of the rapid spread of AIDS in the US, needle exchange programs and AIDS Charity Avers were started in 1986. Slowly more and more antiretroviral vaccines and therapies came up that could nip the bud of the virus at its initial stages, which are still being developed today. Thanks to these medical and technological advances, individuals diagnosed with HIV and AIDS can live a relativly normal life.

The legacy of HIV and AIDS is still very much apparant in today's society. People who have contracted HIV are still stereotyped and carry a stigma from the general public who have not forgotten the beliefs and the behaviours of the population during the 1980's. The awareness of AIDS and HIV has increased tremendously since the first diagnosis and example of which is the anual 'World Aids Day' which falls on the 1st December every year, which gives an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died (around 35 million people), the first one was held in 1988.


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