AIDS isn’t a disease people have known about since the 1800s. In fact, it wasn’t even known as AIDS until a couple years after its discovery in the 1980s. Before, it was called Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease, or GRID (“Natural History of HIV/AIDS”). And because of the fact it wasn’t discovered until the 1980s, people feared the disease and still do to this day. It’s been thirty years and many are still not properly educated about AIDS (Hawkins 16). The fear, stigmatization, and discrimination of people with AIDS and the disease in general have many underlying factors. People have feared and still fear AIDS today because of their misunderstanding of how AIDS is spread, their dislike of homosexuality, and their preexisting prejudices against many of the groups affected by AIDS.
In the early 1980s, AIDS was first discovered, but the doctors and scientists at the time did not know how it was being spread. Multiple cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and Kaposi’s syndrome were being diagnosed in gay men who were immunodeficient, meaning they couldn’t fight off a simple infection. The disease then quickly spread to drug users and hemophiliacs (“Natural History of HIV/AIDS”). Many possible causes were considered, but none of them were correct. The sexually transmitted disease HIV was soon discovered to be the cause of AIDS, but even then, people were mistaken by how AIDS was truly spread. A doctor at Elmhurst General Hospital in New York City in 1985 believed AIDS could be spread by a few
drops of urine on a toilet seat (Rimer). Some of the public believed the virus “was spread through the air, in food of by casual contact at home, at work or in school” (Rimer). The misunderstanding and not knowing how AIDS was being spread by even doctors caused many to fear the disease irrationally. Many did not know the only way to receive AIDS is to have sexual intercourse with a carrier or to receive blood from a tainted source. Once this was discovered though, the fear died down some, but it continues to exist still.
Lack of education is usually a main reason for discrimination. AIDS-education was and is still lacking. When the disease was first discovered, many people believed it could be transmitted through the air or by touching someone with it. In New York City in 1985, a group of people who rented a summer house together went into a frenzy when they learned one man in the group was diagnosed with AIDS (Rimer). All of these people were “highly educated professional men and women in their thirties” (Rimer), and they didn’t even understand how AIDS was spread. At the same time in New York City, no nursing homes had accepted AIDS patients. When the city announced a plan to move ten AIDS patients into a nursing home in Queens, residents filed a lawsuit with the State Supreme Court (Rimer). People are unjustly discriminated against because of the lack of education on AIDS. Ryan White, a thirteen-year-old hemophiliac contracted HIV following a...