The World and AIDS, according to different generations
First established in 1988, today is World AIDS Day. But how people feel about AIDS today is different from how people felt then when it first stood on the global stage.
Almost 35 years since AIDS (and HIV) was first discovered, the perspective of a generation that lived under its shadow is different from today’s generation.
Fear of AIDS in the 80s
People who were born or grew up in the ’70s first heard about AIDS and HIV in 1981, a killer virus that seemingly had no cure.
Unlike other viruses today (like SARS, the Spanish flu, or the recent Ebola), this one wasn’t limited to certain parts of the world.
In those early years, AIDS patients were isolated to avoid the spread of the virus. Moreover, medical personnel who were treating patients had to wear safety suits when they got close to the patients.
But unlike most diseases, AIDS didn’t attack young children, the elderly, and those with weak immune system (though some were also affected). It was killing mostly gays, which led the public to believe it was “a gay disease.”
More frightening, the treatment for AIDS was scarce and experimental back then. As such, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS since then, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
AIDS: Still dangerous even today
Fast forward to today, and the perspective on AIDS has changed drastically.
For one, the public realized that AIDS could not only affect gays but also straight people, especially when basketball player like Magic Johnson admitted before media that he was HIV-positive.
Because of this, today’s generation feels that the virus– while it’s incurable, like sclerosis or lupus– won’t kill you, at least not for a while. It’s not considered a death sentence anymore.
Likewise, while AIDS curbed the sexual recklessness of the older generation, AIDS today doesn’t scare the members of the younger generation who are sexually prolific.
Sadly, another more modern opinion of AIDS is that it’s an African disease, i.e. the virus is mostly happening far away. It doesn’t help that those afflicted in poorer countries don’t enjoy the benefits of modern medical treatment as the Western World.
For the younger people, it’s not seen as a sickness but rather, they have a “it’s-not-going-to-happen-to-me” mind frame.
Where we are now with AIDS
Fortunately, since 2000, HIV infections has gone down by 35 percent while AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 24 percent.
But with the fear of AIDS cooling, funding to further understand the disease has also gone down. Likewise, new cases of AIDS are being reported and there is a possibility for the virus to bounce back with a vengeance.
“When it was considered a homosexual disease, there was a lot of activism and that brought attention to the need for funding,” HIV/AIDS expert Dr. Timothy Lahey explained.
“Treatment is successful and people can live normal lives. That leads to complacency,” Dr. Lahey warned.
In a sense, as we commemorate World AIDS Day, this is something to think about: that even though it has gotten better, generations cannot let their guard down in the fight against AIDS.