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AIDS, is known as, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome and is the disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The virus is transmitted from one person to another through means of intimate sexual contact or exchange of blood or bodily fluids “(whether from contaminated hypodermic needles or syringes, transfusions of infected blood, or transmission from an infected mother to her child before or during birth)” (Schaefer; p. 119). AIDS has become a worldwide epidemic that has struck every identifiable group. However, persons who are considered to be in a high-risk group of contracting HIV are still stigmatized by the media and other professionals as being diseased. Individuals persist that AIDS is a gay disease and that if one is not gay, one is immune from it. Although, no longer do only gays, prostitutes, bisexual men, intravenous drug users contract HIV; the heterosexual community is also facing the epidemic at phenomenon increases. Until a vaccine and/or a cure is discovered for AIDS, the numbers will increase and people will keep dying.
The Slow Response To AIDS
“The first cases of AIDS in the United States were reported in 1981” (Schaefer; p.119). Prior to that, AIDS was not recognized as an epidemic for many deluded years. People with ascendancy all around the world who decided to do nothing “knew the dimensions of the coming catastrophe and the means available to slow it ...” (Gellman; p. 2). Yet, the people decided to direct their attention to things they believed to have more importance than the catastrophe of AIDS, “... other diseases were far more important than AIDS” (Gellman; p. 6).
In regards to the conflict perspective view, the response to the AIDS epidemic is slow because policy makers originally believed that the virus was only relegated to those of the gay community and those of heavy drug users. However, as the years went by, the AIDS virus spread or, became visible, to the heterosexual community and all around the world. The reaction to this problem is still superficial in regards of those who do not want to acknowledge AIDS as a catastrophic crisis. “Those who are dying from AIDS don’t matter in this world” (Gellman; p. 3), in other words, people do not want to sympathize with those who have come into contact with the AIDS virus and those who suffer from it.
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It was simply a matter of the society’s priorities, and AIDS was not one of the United States’. Instead, they saw this disease as something that costed too much money. “If tomorrow there was disease out of the blue that you could cure with a hundred million dollars per person, would we focus on it at all?” (Gellman; p. 11).
Impact of the AIDS Epidemic on Social Interaction and Social Structure in the United States
The impact of the AIDS epidemic on social interaction and social structure in the United States varies a great deal and a large portion of these varieties are due to their cultures. An example may be that of the religion beliefs in a culture, “... ‘family values’ agenda and alliance with Christian conservatives associates AIDS with deviance and sin.” President Ronald Regan said (on the day of his inauguration), (Gellman; p. 5). Thus people associated with religion may see AIDS as a condemnation of some sort. “AIDS is God’s punishment,” Reverend Jerry Falwal said in a famous 1983 sermon, “The Scripture is clear: We do reap it in our flesh when we violate the laws of God” (Gellman; p. 5). Not to mention, the religious association with AIDS may also cause some discriminatory issues, since AIDS was founded in Africa in the 1920s. This may cause some religious groups to believe that black people are responsible for this epidemic. And Africa still, even to this day, has a problem with AIDS.
Other impacts include, “conditions of poverty, oppression, urban migration and social violence” (Gellman; p. 7). Thus, AIDS cannot be solved as a “biomedical problem” (Gellman, p. 7). And also seems to cause substantial change in sexual behavior. This includes increasing condom use and to relegate or confine to a lower, as of social standing, the cultures that practice “bathhouse” sex. Not to mention, women who fear a beating would not attempt to ask their husbands to use condoms; street children and widows (prostitutes) cannot reduce the number of sexual partners they encounter throughout the prostitution if they depend on sex for survival. As for the urban migration, some legislatures may attempt to refuse those migrating from highly infected regions such as Africa. In other words, the refusal of African people can lead to an uproar of the African-Americans that live in America today.
“AIDS, by itself, is reversing decades of slow improvement in child survival, adult longevity, educational attainment and economic growth” (Gellman; p. 3). The AIDS epidemic reduces the population growth rate of a society. In other words, this is to say that AIDS is infecting an awful lot of people in society today. Whether they are being infected with the virus or by the impact AIDS has on the social interaction and social structure in society, AIDS has proved to be an epidemic, both medically and of terror and/or ignorance.
Why Social Policies Might Have the Best Chance of Reducing the AIDS Epidemic
Social policies have a better chance of reducing the AIDS epidemic because AIDS is at long last being recognized as a social problem. The White House Administrators say that the premises of their new commitment on AIDS is that they are being confronted for the “first time” with the seriousness of this catastrophe. It is finally being acknowledged that the problem of AIDS is not confided only to the gay community, “with heterosexual transmission established, AIDS might go anywhere” (Gellman; p. 6). In other words, the nation acquiesces AIDS as a national crisis. In result of this revelation, the United Nation has set a goal to cut down the new infections of HIV/AIDS by 25 percent by 2005, “but even that improbable feat would not stop the toll from doubling and doubling again” (Gellman; p. 2).
The educating of people seem to be recognized as a major factor in reducing the epidemic of AIDS. For those who are educated about the disease are more likely to become protective of their own well-being and thus protecting themselves from this virus. There are several services that people use to help educate others or even to give support when necessary and those services include: a telephone hot-line, advocates that are sent to hospitals to insist on better care for patients, as well as therapy and support groups for people with AIDS and their loved ones. If it was not for the services and the support provided, the AIDS epidemic would more likely result in a much more serious catastrophe for society in the United States today.
Even though the United States admits that they realize AIDS is a crisis that needs to be dealt with in America today, they, or more specifically, Sandra Thurman - director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy - says, “We currently know before we’re able to stop this pandemic we’ll have hundreds of millions of people infected and dead, and that’s the best case scenario.”
Schaefer "Sociology: Third Edition"