Reading Response

Each of the three articles makes a point about the AIDS epidemic in its history and present. It’s not uncommon in articles or writings on the subject to find personal stories, calls for strength and a very broken trust of higher powers such as the government or society as a whole. The excerpts and articles that I’ll cite in this response all touch on the ferocity of a disease and in contrast the structural inequalities that often make up an epidemic. Diseases such as AIDS and Zika have small beginnings and no preference for their victims but the way in which we handle them can lead to epidemics that come over waves of society.


In Vitro Russo’s speech “Why We Fight”, he delivers a shaking message of how people suffering from AIDS have to be strong enough to help each other through the struggle and find a cure all while finding the strength to fight basic illnesses and stay alive. He is decisive in his message that higher powers of the government do not care about the people suffering. In the excerpt from “Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemicby Sonja Mackenzie, there is another decisive stance that AIDS as a disease is the epidemic we all know today due largely to major systemic inequality. It does not suggest specifically that AIDS was invented as a tool to hinder the lower class, predominantly the black community, but that the government was quick to embrace that aspect of and use tools of fear and other-ing to lead others to believe the victims are the ones to blame. The CNN article “Could Zika Be the Next HIV?” spends less time discussing the details of the HIV crisis but it shares the same theme as the other two applied to the contemporarily known Zika virus. Its purpose for comparing the two is that as we know it, Zika has affected people in less developed countries largely but those of us in America are not immune. It can be spread sexually or through mosquitos and because the government shows a lack of interest in fast problem solving, it has the capacity to hit our nations lower class in a vengeful wave.


What we can learn from the articles and excerpts is that it is incredibly important to be aware of the common events that lead us to an epidemic and how to avoid it. As we see, it usually starts small with only a few people of varying socio-economic backgrounds but sweeps through lower class communities very quickly. We often see victims lose trust in the government entirely as a result of the government handling the fear widespread fear of the disease by victim blaming. Middle class suburban America doesn’t need to be afraid of a rampant disease if they’re told the millions of people affected are at fault. Furthermore, even if they do feel it is their own responsibility to avoid it, they often have the resources to do so. I’m currently reading “The New Jim Crow” in which Michelle Alexander explains in much further detail how respectability politics contribute to systemic oppression, or as it would stand in the case of Zika, lack of action.


When reading articles about public health crises, it doesn’t take much to feel powerless and afraid. However, what can be drawn from reading the articles and excerpts in combination is that when a certain type of people are plagued with a disease and a lack of help they can often find strength in coming together. We can also find hope in the potential to take these found strengths and inequalities and habits of our system that we’ve learned about from AIDS and use it to prevent the same tragedy from occurring again with Zika. It doesn’t look good so far, but as a society, learning about it is our necessary first step.

Zach Nicholas / Reading Assignment – HIV

Each article was a different perspective on how a virus effects a community, but show the progression of how we as a collective culture react. The first, Why We Fight, gave the perspective of a person in the 80s dealing with the social stigma of having HIV and trying to survive it. It was a very frustrating read because I could see his perspective on how hard it was that the general public saw themselves as “safe for now” while he was struggling. And so not only was he ignores, but placed outside of society. HIV is a dehumanizing disease.

The second, Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic, was an interesting different discourse of the HIV community set in 2006 when the movie Brokeback Mountain came out. I found it a depressingly true when the person Davon said that a black Brokeback Mountain would be impossible. It parallels the Black Lives Matter movement we’re having now and that has been going on for a while where if you’re a minority and your rights and needs don’t matter. And so within the gay black community, you’re considered an even lower peg of being on the “Down Low.” Recently I’ve been really aware of this issue and have even gone to forums in Atlanta when I was down there this last semester. And at these forums there were a lot of tension moments because there are a clearly different white and black gay communities. There is even a separate Black Gay Pride Day to acknowledge the hardships of that specific community and celebrate their triumphs. And so when I read that “white gays have it under control” I believed it because they have the funding, they are not battling two fronts of racism and homophobia, and they create a level of exclusivity. However, they do still struggle, and HIV/AIDS is still a massively unnoticed disease now that it’s “under control,” but the recent spike in heroin usage is giving it the boost it needs to plague another generation.

The last article, Could Zika be the Next HIV?, was interesting and scary for many reasons, but I’m going to focus on two; one, this is a disease that is affecting everyone and so we are focusing much more on it, and two, it’s a disease we know very little about. It’s being treated much differently than HIV, mainly because it’s not a “gay” disease as it was deemed in the 80s and because it can be transmitted a number of ways, mosquitos, male-to-male intercourse, male-to-female, female-to-male, and it didn’t say but if since virus is present in the vagina I assume female-to-female. It’s a frightening thing and the virus is slowly creeping in from every coast. As I was just in Atlanta, and they just had their first documented case. And so people are being much more compassionate this time around, mainly I think because we’re a much more tolerant society and also because there’s a much less false sense of security with this virus (a depressing thing to say about the perceptions of HIV).

I couldn’t find one specific project I wanted to focus on for the creative portion, so I cobbled a few together. My first link (here) is an organization that focuses on providing Art of AID. They do a lot of work internationally for AIDS awareness, as well as helping people cope with AIDS through creative outlets. Because AIDS is not only a physical disease, it’s a mental and art can help with aid both. Second is Keith Haring, who is an extremely strange artist but created many AIDS centered work that opposed anonymous sex so that people didn’t literally “fuck themselves to death.” And like what was shared in class, he created the idea silence=death (featured below).

There were many artists and movements surrounding HIV/AIDS, but I would argue that Keith Haring might have been the most well known and possibly the most influential.

These three articles were great for really showing the progression of American societal response to a widespread disease and how viscous we can be, blaming the afflicted saying “it’s your fault you’re dying, we don’t have to help you until it affects us.” But it does affect us, because us is everyone. Everyone is your neighbor and everyone deserves help in their time of need.

Reading Response // Raechel DeSena

In the articles provided, all discussed a similar topic, HIV/AIDS. Though a common topic was used, all articles discussed the topic in a completely different approach. In the article, Why We Fight, the thesis was primarily saying that we, as a nation, are not doing enough in regards to HIV/AIDS; not talking about it enough, not educating enough, not being worried enough, and certainly not caring enough.


In the first chapter of Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic, it seemed as though the thesis was providing opinions and stories of those affected by HIV/AIDS in the black community. From what I interpreted, it seemed as though the author was trying to say that the discussion about black men contracting HIV/AIDS has gone unspoken for far too long. The author explains that for a long time, homosexual sexual activity in the black community was, and still is, kept very quiet and secretive, thus not allowing for an open discussion about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.


In the final article, Could Zika be the Next HIV, discusses the Zika virus that is taking the world by storm currently. Though the article’s main purpose seems to be educating the world on what exactly Zika is and how it affects us, the thesis is considering the idea the Zika could be most comparable to HIV. The article talks about how Zika can be contracted and compares it to the similar ways in which HIV can be contracted.


After reading these articles and synthesizing the information, my main argument is that we need to discuss and educated our nation, and the world, on HIV/AIDS and Zika. Before we need to start arguing about what we can do about these issues and what might happen from these diseases, we need the world to even know what we’re talking about. Quiet honestly, when reading these articles, I was incredibly alarmed about how little I knew about this topic. As someone who has been in a public education system since age 5, I was baffled that our nation hasn’t mandated that this type of information be taught and discussed in school. When you look at the articles, it’s obvious that a lot of our nation is in the dark too. People either haven’t been educated enough, don’t care to know because it isn’t affected them yet, or people are too afraid to discuss their personal accounts of their disease. My stance is that we need to put the stigma behind us and start talking. Sure, it can be a hard topic to discuss diseases that are transferred from sex and sharing needles or even mosquitoes, but we need to talk about it. What’s at risk? The risk is people not knowing enough and further spreading this disease. The risk is more people dying everyday.


I looked on the internet to see if there were many programs right now to educate on this topic, and one thing I found was this video:

Though it is a little goofy, this animated video is a great way of starting to educate at a young age. The language is fairly simple and let’s people of various ages know the facts about HIV/AIDS. Things such as this video are a great way to start the discussion and education our world needs.

Reading Assignment – Madison Schaffner

In the Article “Could Zika be the next HIV?”, Laurie explains how Zika is able to be sexually transmitted but that an alarming amount of people are not aware of what the Zika virus is let alone the fact that it can be spread via sexual intercourse. I think, unlike HIV, because Zika is most commonly spread (or known to be spread) by mosquitos, most people don’t relate Zika to a sexually transmitted virus. Because of the different ways the virus can be spread, we need to think about multiple ways of prevention including killing mosquitos as well as sex education and STD prevention.

In “Storying Sexuality with Black AIDS Epidemic” it quickly became very obvious how much of a prejudice there is around same-sex sexuality in colored men (particularly black and latino) vs. the white community. One thing that really stood out to me was the conspiracy theory that Patricia, and possibly many more, believe about the existence of the HIV virus. Patricia is among a group of people who believe in “conspiracy of intent”; she believes that the US government is involved in the making of the HIV virus for reasons such as killing those in lower economic classes and Blacks, among other groups of people.

“Why We Fight” was a very interesting article about the fact that HIV/AIDS isn’t being talked about. HIV has always had a stereotype of only existing in gay men, but the government won’t admit it enough to target gay men for the education and for the treatment that they may need. The disease is being allowed to spread by ignorance, and on purpose.

In all three of these articles I think there is an overwhelming theme of misinformation. We are not treating HIV/AIDS because we don’t know what it is, how it spreads, who can get it, or what it does. Not in the sense that no one knows the answers (to at least some of these questions if not all), but that we refuse to teach other people the important facts they need to know to be able to prevent the spread of HIV.  While Patricia’s conspiracy theory about the US government purposefully creating a virus to kill off black may not be true, I think there is a lot of information that could be gathered from this belief. Why would anyone feel like their government is trying to kill them off with a disease that has been in this country for over 30 years? Because of the lack of care, the lack of sympathy, the lack of spread of information. If we know so much about how deadly HIV/AIDS is and can be why aren’t we doing more if it wasn’t intentional to kill so many?

There is a project called Gapminder that seeks to find what people don’t know. It could be used not only for HIV/AIDS but for so many important things and could be separated by region. Through using something like this we could study why people aren’t aware of certain topics be it the economic culture in their area or by lack of education, among other reasons.