Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"The White man's disease"

In his essay, “Impure Science: AIDS, Activism and the Politics of Knowledge,” Steven Epstein argues that some part of homosexuality has always been medicalized resulting in AIDS becoming “the gay disease.” Epstein writes about the extent to which society used homosexuality as a scapegoat for the AIDS and HIV by making gayness the “other.” “…the issue was framed in particular ways that influenced medical perceptions of homosexuality…such stereotypes obscure the fact that researchers…characterized with rather sweeping generalizations. (p. 51).”

Instead of figuring out how to treat or cure AIDS and HIV, early doctors focused most of their attentions on cementing what lifestyles spread AIDS and that promiscuity amongst gay men was the “lifestyle choice” that led to AIDS some sort of punishment. The media, the medical community and society bought into the “idea of a linkage between homosexuality, promiscuity, and illness…(p. 55),” thereby increasing the stigma of AIDS and forcing doctors who had any inkling of opposition to keep quiet or risk guilt by association.

The media is one avenue of information spreading that I really am so disappointed in. Now, I realize that the relationship between the media and the medical community was reciprocal: one gave information while the other disperses it, but the knowledge that “the academy” and the media injected so much confusion and misinformation into society is just so sad. “Scientists and reporters in the West picked up on the notion that Africa ‘could have been the breeding place’ for the epidemic. (p. 56).”

I think about the stories about AIDS that I heard growing up: the fear that people stab random people with HIV-positive needles in crowds, Africans having sex with monkeys, Africa being the source of AIDS and that it was their problem – so much of this I grew up hearing, and I’ll bet my parents still believe a lot of this. I guess it’s interesting for me to learn about all these different viewpoints on this topic, and really, when I see what the media and the medical community has done in the past, is it so far-fetched for Reverend Wright to claim that the C.I.A. had some hand in the creation of AIDS to kill off Africans or Black Americans? Maybe….or maybe not.

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