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 Epidemic” by 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.