I remember first reading and hearing about a mysterious and threatening disorder that caused a drastic reduction in the immune function of humans. The medical community was at a loss as to what the condition could be. Previously rare diseases were showing up in greater numbers.
People who injected drugs and some gay men were coming down with Pneumocystis crini pneumonia or PCP. Soon, a little known skin cancer, Kaposi’s sarcoma, developed with gay men. Enough of a problem was developing such that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, became concerned.
The condition did not have an official name at that time. Some, in the medical community, called it the 4H Disease, that is the problem apparently affected Haitians, hemophiliacs, heroin users and homosexuals. The press corps began using the acronym GRID for gay-related immune deficiency. By the summer of 1982, the CDC knew the condition didn’t only affect gay men, the new name was Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS.
The puzzle about the peculiar and deadly condition was bad enough. But the social reactions AIDS were rapidly raising their ugly heads. Fears and a stigma towards AIDS and gay men. Religious extremists used the condition in their attacks against the gay community. Mental and physical violence against people suffering from AIDS and HIV infected individuals became widespread. Talk of quarantines spread faster than the disease itself.
The rightful fear of violence and discrimination discouraged thousands of people from seeking HIV testing or checking in for treatment. The result of the fear, violence and discrimination was that a possibly managable illness became a death sentence and actually increased the spread of HIV and AIDS.
AIDS was more than a source of headlines and an excuse for hatred, prejudice, and discrimination. People in all walks of life were affected either directly or indirectly by the condition. I remember hearing about acquaintances coming down with the disease. Later, I lost some friends to AIDS. Everything about AIDS was heartbreaking and frightening.
These days, heroic efforts continue in the control and battling of the micro-organisms and bodily reactions to HIV/AIDS. Even though there is still no cure, treatments have become very effective. The knowledge and means of prevention are basic and simple.
The efforts continue in battling the stigma and prejudice linked to fears about AIDS and the people most likely to come down with the disease. AIDS awareness efforts to inform the public are widespread. The fear and prejudice is diminishing, too.
For more information about World AIDS Day check out: http://www.worldaidsday.org/
The Blue Jay of Happiness reminds you to play safely and to include HIV testing in your medical regime.