AIDS is a fascinating syndrome, being caused by a retrovirus, and having such deep societal impacts. Today, we remember AIDS, and all of those who have passed.
AIDS is caused by a retrovirus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV takes a toll on CD4 cells which help fight off infections. HIV will destroy these cells and lead to the immunodeficiency state of infected individuals.
In the 1980’s, when AIDS was beginning to run rampant in the US, it was possible to see the societal response to a disease, AIDS, that seemed to be affecting a very specific group – gay men. Before AIDS was AIDS, it was GRID (gay-related immune deficiency). NBC anchor, Tom Brokaw, stated, “The lifestyle of some male homosexuals has triggered an epidemic of a rare form of cancer.” During this time period this already vulnerable group became more stigmatized. However, media also seemed to be ignoring the amount of death that happened within this community. During this time period (1981-2000) there were 774,467 reported people who had AIDS, of which 448,060 died.
Ushered largely as a result of the steep mortality rate, activists and organizers were able to push the issue of AIDS research to a very high priority for the government. During this crisis period there was many positive advancements, including the establishment of a disease monitoring system in 1981, the licensure of a blood test to screen donors and supplies, and federal funding for state and local health departments for HIV prevention and education.
Currently, we have expanded the awareness of AIDS to ensure that people know that it is not a disease that infects only gay males, in hopes to reduce stigmatization around the disease. Currently there are 36.7 million people in the world living with AIDS with a vast majority of people living with HIV in low- and middle income countries. There has also been an increase in the prioritization of the of dissemination accurate health information. Introduction of the disease to pop culture through HBO’s movie The Normal Heart and other medias has also led to a lot more awareness around HIV/AIDS. There are currently 18.2 million people with HIV living with antiretroviral therapy, which has also allowed for reduction of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and led to a decline in incidence of children with HIV/AIDS. Hopefully use of antiretroviral therapies, prevention, education strategies, and further research can advance our reach into the goal of being an HIV/AIDS free society.
- Gianna Nino-Tapias ('18)
- Leon, H. “How the Media, the White house, and Everyone Else Failed AIDS Victims in the 80s.” VICE Media LLC. 1 Dec. 2016. Web.
- Rogers, EM et al. AIDS in the 1980s: The Agenda-setting process for a public issue. Journalism Monographs (1991). 1-45.
- "Global Statistics." AIDS.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 29 Nov. 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.
- “What is HIV/AIDS.”AIDS.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 29 Nov. 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.