Views on the AIDS Epidemic: The Fear of AIDS

Initially, when AIDS was discovered, a panic consumed the citizens of the  United States. This caused an “understandable but probably excessive fear of AIDS” (NY Times 1983) due to the lack of prior knowledge of AIDS given to them by the news media. In the beginning stages of this disease, the public was lead to believe that “it remains confined to male homosexuals, users of intravenous drugs, Haitian immigrants and, to a far lesser degree, the users of blood products, like hemophiliacs” (NY Times) and if you weren’t in any of those categories AIDS didn’t pose a risk to your immune system. Another stigma that terrorized the community was HIV, a myth was that if you acquired it you then have AIDS. “Once you get an HIV infection, you have it for life, but it does not progress to AIDS in all people” (Medicine Net, 2016).

 The fear of AIDS hindered many people from going to get tested and to learn much of anything about this disease although state AIDS coordinators believe getting tested is the best preventative measure. This caused people to shut others out, based on their beliefs that one may have the virus that turned into the deadly disease, because they thought that it could be acquired in ways such as sharing a drink, touching or using the same bathroom to name a few. When people they cared about began contracting AIDS, that is when it became a more sensible topic. “Twenty years ago, the news that Magic Johnson had acquired HIV heterosexually helped the country realize that the infection was not limited to men who had sex with men” (Medicine Net, 2016). This didn’t bring us back to square one instead, it opened up many discussions and support groups. Even Magic Johnson decided to become a “spokesman for the virus” (Cannon, 1991) after he “shocked the nation Thursday when he announced he had tested positive for HIV and was retiring from basketball” (Cannon, 1991).