Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Do you know enough about the history of HIV & AIDS? I sure didn't...

In 1981 Gay Related Immune Disease (GRID) was identified as AIDS and HIV was discovered as the viral cause. The name no longer identified the minority group as the cause or the sufferers. In the same year, there was the first identified case in the United Kingdom (Dubois, R.M., Braitwaite, M.A., Mikhail, J.R. et al., (1981) 'Primary Pneumocystis Carinii and Cytomegalovirus Infections', the Lancet, ii, 1339).

In 1984 Foucault died of an AIDS-related illness; he would have seen the beginning of segregation, the fear caused by HIV/AIDS. James Miller quotes Berkeley philosophy professor Hans Sluga warning Foucault about AIDS: 'He didn't believe it. He thought that Americans were basically puritanical and anti-sexual; and that it was all coming out in this sudden hysteria about this mysterious disease.' (345) Sluga is echoed by English professor D.A. Miller:
"Je n'y crois pas," Miller recalls the philosopher [that's Foucault] saying: "I don't believe it."'(349) ... Clinching to his point, Foucault leaned towards the professor. "Besides," he said, "To die for the love of boys: What could be more beautiful."' (350)
James Miller's The Passion of Michel Foucault, HarperCollins edition, London, 1994

Ironically enough, international researchers presented evidence that the "French virus" was the long sought cause of AIDS. [The Frederick Post, April 20, 1984]. HIV/AIDS affected the sense of the body as contagion, disease, needing to be quarantined, keeping population safe by demonising the gays, promoting condoms and condemning bare-backing, religious and moral leaders crying homosexuality to be sinful and the wage of that sin is painful death - the awesome punishment of God writ true. The burgeoning AIDS epidemic was a modern watershed in the observation and control of the ‘other’ body. A significant proportion of the population was being labelled both as deviant and as infected/infecting, a risk to the rest of the normal population. As a result increased access to information about the body was permitted and promoted (add citation about US Congress requirement for individuals to declare their HIV status: Reagan?). At this time the male body became a weapon, a sexual weapon, no longer one that was solely a danger to women (as some feminist theory contended) but a body which could be lethal to all society. The new disease was believed to be solely a problem for homosexual men and therefore attracted little interest or research/financial support as it was a gay disease affecting a minority group. Soon it was realised that the men who slept with men, who did not classify themselves as gay and therefore were in the majority community of ‘straight’ people were putting the rest of society’s health at risk. Bisexuals became the chief concern as conduit between the normal people and the ‘other’; lesbians on the other hand got off lightly as they were seen to be safer due to their sexual practices.

In 1985 Rock Hudson, the ultimate cowboy, the first American celebrity to publicly admit having AIDS, died of the disease. The Western concept of masculinity that had been challenged by increased publicity to homosexuality practices, specifically buggery that was seen to spread this new frightening disease, was further rocked when Mr Hudson died. [Add in newspaper citations as evidence of media squall over his death].

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