Written by Kayla Garnett
AIDS is an illness with many aliases. First coined “Gay Man’s Pneumonia,” and later “gay cancer,” this lethal stage of HIV is currently affecting “approximately 38.4 million people across the globe [as of] 2021,” (hiv.gov). The deadliness of this illness does not only manifest in a physical sense, but a social sense as well. The stigma behind AIDS has contributed to many harmful misconceptions and stereotypes about victims of this illness that are not based in science.
World AIDS Day was established in 1988 to bring awareness to the epidemic and replace the misconstrued picture many had about AIDS with facts in order to better educate the general public on the disease and who it really affects. To contextualize this, we have to look at the time period in which World AIDS Day emerged.
The NIH admitted their first AIDS case in June, 1981. He was a “35-year-old, white gay man” who would never leave the NIH Clinical Center, passing away on October 28 of the same year.
From then on, AIDS cases skyrocketed, shaking the LGBTQ+ community in the United States and the world.
Debunking the Myths: What is HIV/AIDS?
One common myth (alluded to in the opening of this article) is that HIV/AIDS primarily affects male members of the LGBTQ+ community. In reality, however, “54% [of infected] were women and girls [as of 2021],” (hiv.gov).
AIDS stems from HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is not an airborne virus caught through sneezes or coughs, but is instead contracted through the blood and some bodily fluids. Due to the nature of this virus and the fluids that “that contain enough HIV to infect someone,” the virus often enters the body through the bloodstream from infected (shared) equipment, thin skin on or inside genital areas, thin skin lining the mouth and eyes, and cuts and sores in the skin (nhs.uk).
If HIV is left untreated, it can lead to AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Being an illness associated with being contracted sexually, many may not feel comfortable or safe reaching out for help or testing if they suspect they may have HIV/AIDS. The stig