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The AIDS Crisis
AIDS is an epidemic that has been treated like every other plague in history. Because it is human nature to be afraid of what one cannot control, people are invariably afraid of disease and infection. Moreover, the fear is escalated many times over in that the disease starts controlling the person who it has infected. As a result, society as a whole ostracizes and black lists anyone and anything that is believed to be associated with the disease.
Many people think the United States is home of the most modern and developed society in the world. Yet, this society remains flawed in that its reaction to disease mirrors that of medieval times. Although this a society that can build anything and go anywhere, the basic fears of mankind are almost entirely the same as the dark ages. It is true that we are faced with bigger and uglier problems. However, we still try to find scapegoats for these problems instead of trying to understand them.
Currently, the United States is trying to deal with the AIDS epidemic. However, that was not our initial reaction. When AIDS first reared its ugly head in the beginning of the 1980's, Americans refused to acknowledge the problem. It was considered a problem of the homosexuals and therefore did not exist. This was the same attitude of the government and yet people were dying and more were getting sick. The word AIDS was like taboo in the whole United States. This attitude also prevented the government from getting involved sooner because the government generally works on public opinion. If government officials started to talk about what people did not want to hear (AIDS and homosexuals), than those officials were in danger of losing their jobs.
Society in general was ignorant of AIDS. They did not know where it came from and how people acquired the disease. This not only added to their fears but put them in more danger. They lived in the middle of the sexual revolution and it was almost like a way of life for these people. Moreover, because they were ignorant, it put them in more danger of getting the disease. This ignorance was finally abated in 1986 when Dan Rather audaciously aired a broadcast on AIDS. As a result, many people learned the dangers of their actions and of AIDS. It changed the eighties by scaring people in a more positive way.
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The broadcast also tried to deal with the ostracizement of certain individuals because of general stereotypes that related their beliefs or lifestyles to the AIDS virus. However, human nature is not that easy to change. Although today people are much less ignorant about the disease and how it works, they still alienate people because of their fear. In some cases AIDS is an excuse to ostracize unwanted people whereas in other cases, people are generally afraid of acquiring the disease. Although they thoroughly understand the disease and how it spreads, there seems to be something in the backs of the minds of people that makes them alienate people. We recognize people by their specific traits. In the case of people with HIV, it seems that they are still tagged as HIV positives, even in this day and age, and not as the girl with the big green eyes or the boy who never stops smiling.