HIV/AIDS and society have a very complicated relationship. Stigmas in society about AIDS cause stumbling blocks for the eradication of HIV/AIDS. AIDS causes problems within society. The moral taboos attached to AIDS have caused many people to remain silent about the disease they are carrying, therefore allowing further proliferation of the disease. AIDS and sex are often seen as one. We see these moral taboos in countries that are mainly religious based. In these countries citizens carrying HIV/AIDS are assumed to have contracted the disease through loose sex and “deviant” sex. There are times when people contract the disease, and they have been monogamous. Sometimes a spouse will marry an individual with the disease and not know it. They then receive the disease from that individual. If others in society find out that that individual has AIDS there is often a stigma of unmoral sexual behavior placed on an individual who has only been true to their spouse. Another false stigma that was placed on individuals with HIV/AIDS was that they were homosexuals. “Federal health officials and experts came up with a succession of names for the disease before they settled on acquired immune deficiency syndrome in 1982. (Some of the early efforts smacked of discrimination, like GRID, for gay-related immune deficiency.) But whatever it was called, it carried a bitter stigma.” (Altman, N.Y. Times) Although there is an unfair assumption that homosexuality is strictly a gay disease, the facts do show that a large percentage of those with HIV/AIDS are in fact gay. According to the City Health Department, 3,926 cases of AIDS have been reported in the city, 59 percent of them among homosexual or bisexual men; most of the rest come from a variety of risk groups, including intravenous drug users and the sex partners or children of those who have AIDS.( Collins, N.Y. Times) Even though these numbers are high, it is unfair to assume that everyone who is infected is a homosexual. There are other causes of HIV/AIDS being spread.
Drugs and the reuse of dirty needles is a way the disease can spread. Drugs are often done in a community setting. People will get together and shoot up. All it takes is for an individual with the infection to use the needle then share that needle with a friend. “Our government (America government) has refused to support the provision of clean needles, even though injection with dirty needles has been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control to be responsible for more than 250,000 HIV infections and more than half of the pediatric AIDS cases in the United States.”(Charon, Vigilant, 336) Another problem is not the actual sharing of needles but rather hard users selling themselves for drugs or money to buy drugs. These facts often reinforce stereotypes about AIDS, and these labels often give those uneducated about the disease an unhealthy fear of it. They assume that the “unmoral” of society are responsible for the spread of the disease. So far we have looked at HIV/AIDS with a lens focused on homosexuality and drug users, but there are many different focuses one can take when looking at this disease.
Children in Africa have paid a high price in the spread of the disease. According to “Time U.S.” seventeen million Africans have perished since the onset of the disease and out of that number over three million are children. Not only are the children suffering from the disease itself, they are also being orphaned because their parents are dying due to AIDS. Over twelve million children have been orphaned because of the disease, and many potential parents will not adopt them because they fear contraction of the disease from these kids. It is hard to attach sexual deviance to these innocent children who are suffering from the effects of HIV/AIDS. Multiple generations are finding that they are paying the price for the effects of their parents. It is not right for society to attach negative labels to people who are innocent. Society must be educated so that society can help those who are suffering. Fear causes society to neglect and exclude these individuals. Education about the HIV/AIDS epidemic will help squash the stigmas attached to the deadly disease. Those suffering from the disease are not the only ones paying the price of HIV/AIDS.
Countries across the globe have to pay fiscally for the health of those living within their borders. To keep HIV/AIDS in check governments must come up with programs for education, prevention, and treatment cost money. Clean needle programs for those using drugs have proven to reduce AIDS within the drug community. This cuts the cost of having to pay for treatment. There is also the need to educate those who do not suffer from the disease. Education will keep people from excluding those who have the disease. If there is a larger support group for those infected than we can show those people with the disease that they do not need to keep their illness a secret. People fear isolation if that fear is taken away then these people can be open with others so that the disease will not be spread due to ignorance. There are many people who do not even get tested because they fear what others will think of them. There is an artist, David LaChapelle, who for fifteen years thought he was going to die from AIDS. He refused to get tested and just assumed that he was going to die. After all that time he finally got tested and realized that he did not have the disease. Although he was lucky, there are many people who live the same way; yet they have the disease and spread the disease. To abolish this mindset society must make it alright for someone to live openly with the disease. According to Carole Leach-Lemens if we do not educate society, it is estimated that by 2031 the global cost of treatment of AIDS will be thirty-five billion dollars a year. Social change is our best hope to contain this disease and prevent it from hurting further generations.
In this paper we look at the relationship of HIV/AIDS and society. We saw misconceptions of the origins of the disease within the homosexual community. We also saw that sexual deviance is not the only way HIV/AIDS is spread. There are many good people and children who suffer from the effects of AIDS, and if we do not come to a better understanding of the disease then it will continue to harm others in the near and far future. Not only is there a fiscal cost attached to this disease, there is also a cost to our humanity when we let this disease ravage our planet.
Work Cited Page
1. 30 Years in, We are still learning from AIDS, M.D. Lawrence Altman, New York Times, May 30 2011
2. Impact of AIDS: Patterns of Homosexual Life Changing, Glenn Collins, New York Times, 1985