The New York Times recently published an article called “30 Years In, We Are Still Learning From AIDS” by Laurence K. Altman.
This summary timeline, although brief, gives us an idea of how the US dealt with the rise of this epidemic and where it stands when it comes to understanding and combating HIV/AIDS. Those who study the history of AIDS in the US can fill in the blanks regarding the scientific inconsistencies and mass hysteria surrounding the disease. Once it was discovered that seroconversion (changing from HIV- to HIV+) could occur through sexual intercourse, discrimination quickly skyrocketed.
For example, preceding “HIV/AIDS” was the creation of derogatory terminology such as “GRID” (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). In 1982, the medical society also identified risk groups called the “4 H’s” (hemophiliacs, heroin addicts, homosexuals and Haitians). While my intention is not to ridicule the mistakes of our society, nor of specific scientific communities, it is to point out the major issues that arise from jumping to conclusions. I could not begin to imagine the kind of fear and hysteria that hit our nation, nor the frightening notion that even our nation’s greatest scientists were unable to identify and treat the disease.
One can see from this article that the US has come a long way in these 30 years. With drastic improvements in scientific methods, along with the constant widespread communication among scientific communities here and abroad, many people are now optimistic about our progress in eradicating HIV/AIDS. Even those who are diagnosed as seropositive (HIV+) now believe in the efficacy of antiretroviral medications in sustaining T-cell counts and prolonging life itself. However, the most important thing I took from the article is the call for vigilance.
As many are aware, funding for research and medical developments is becoming increasingly scarce. In addition, there is the possibility that if a disease is thought to be cured, people will not be worrying about it as much anymore. Thus it is important to remember the past and to continue improving the science behind eradicating HIV/AIDS.
There are many of you reading this who may be from other countries, or at least aware that the struggles against HIV/AIDS are not the same across the world. Furthermore, you may think that the situation in the US is unique as it is one of the world powers. This means that it is even more important, as critical thinkers and members of AIDemocracy, that we advocate for those who cannot afford treatments such as antiretroviral medications, both near and far.