While the first case of AIDS in America dates back to the 1960’s, it began to spread rapidly throughout America in the early 1980’s. By June 5th, 1981, five homosexual men living in Los Angeles will have already have been diagnosed with AIDS, two of them already deceased (Timeline of HIV/AIDS). While some celebrated the idea of AIDS as being ‘the gay plague’, the rest of the country struggles throughout most of the 1980’s to discover the origins of the epidemic.
My goal for this blog is to paint a picture of what life was like for members of the LGBT community during the AIDS epidemic during the 1980’s and 1990’s. I wanted to highlight how this affected people on an individual level, even if they themselves did not necessarily contract the disease. People were dying left and right, and the media was not giving AIDS the coverage it deserved. Because it seemingly was only going to affect member of the LGBT community, a majority of Americans were willing to overlook it. Others were even condoning and pleased that AIDS was killing off so many people. LGBT Members were beginning to feel helpless knowing that their country was unwilling to help them while they were forced to watch their loved ones die. Fear spread throughout everyone because no one knew what exactly was causing AIDS. Couples were reluctant to even hold hands, no one wanted to give another human being any form of affection because it could be the fatal mistake that leaves them deathly ill. Looking back on how things unfolded, we have to ask ourselves: How would the government have handled this situation if AIDS was mainly an issue for heterosexual individuals?
From my research, I have come to realize just how heavily AIDS 1980’s society, and just how devastating the death toll was. Because AIDS is associated with the LGBT group, it is not something that is permitted to be appropriate to discuss in schools, and people avoid it like the plague. It is a piece of American history that people want to bury and forget about because it represents the apathy that is relevant in our culture. It was not seen as America’s problem; it was their problem. After having a conversation with someone who had grown up in the 1980’s, they informed me that the government chose not to take action until heterosexual couples and children also began to test positive for AIDS. From this, I have learned that our society was insinuating that one life can be deemed more valuable than another simply by their sexual orientation. Choosing to be gay in our culture means you are deliberately out-casting yourself because you are not converting to societal standards.
The country turned their backs on the LGBT community, so they had to take it upon themselves to make the changes that they so desperately needed. Songwriters begin to dedicate their music to those who have lost their lives to AIDS, movies and documentaries begin surfacing in hopes to de-bunk the disease and figure out what is causing people to rapidly die, and AIDS Hospices are starting to open up throughout the country so that those who have been diagnosed have a place to stay that will ensure they are given the healthcare they need. AIDS Activists begin to protest in the streets of San Franciso, relentless to find a cure for their partners, friends, and families that they have created in their city. Suddenly, these out-casted people realize that they have a more powerful voice than they have been lead to believe.
If I were to teach a group of freshman students on the AIDS epidemic, I would want to show them the gruesome photos of patients with blisters all over their backs, reduced to a skeletal form during their final days. I would want to show them the pain and suffering of their families, friends, and loved ones as they have to watch these patients receive their death sentences. They should witness the video clips of other Americans condoning the genocide of Lesbians and Gays, claiming that it is God’s will to rid the world of homosexuality. What is most important to teach future generations is that we can’t fight these battles alone. A problem should not be overlooked just because it isn’t happening to you personally. Somewhere in the world, another virus is laying dormant for now, but will eventually cause another epidemic and promote chaos. If we want to become an advanced society, it’s critical that everyone is unified so that no one group gets left behind.