How we spread AIDS through Discrimination

Ferraro Speech on Discrimination. Emory Report 1988

On October 1988, Geraldine Ferraro, the first Democratic female candidate for Vice President, addressed the consequence of discrimination and the health of our nation.

“According to Ferraro, discrimination is a dysfunctional and maladaptive                               tendency. It gives rise to hunger, crime, and the spread of one of the                                     century’s most debilitating diseases- AIDS.”

This article, found in the Emory Report for October 10, 1988 addresses some important questions. Does discriminations directly correlate with the spread of HIV AIDS? If this is true then, does discrimination directly lead to the lose of lives? We have already encountered how radical discrimination can lead to destruction and mass death as in Holocaust Nazi Germany and how it only took one man to raise a community against a specific people. This one idea- this one negative distinction was responsible for millions of lives. How about today? Will our ignorance and lack of understanding eventually transform to massive death? Can we realize that because of discrimination, we are robbing society of talent, artistic expression and individuality? I think that these are the questions that Ferraro herself had and tried to emphasize in her speech.

If this is true, that we are a discriminatory society, then are we (the public) more responsible for the spread of AIDS then the actual AIDS holders? If we cannot realize that the LGBTQ community is just as much as part of our society then, can we realize that we too are also responsible for sickness, fear, and crime? Ferraro explained that if you have an individual who was HIV AIDS positive then he/she would be less likely to advertise it because of the negative views of society. Society will automatically assume that this person is rather pernicious and if he is male, then that automatically makes him gay and not “normal.” What if however, this individual contracted AIDS from his mother, who was AIDS positive, does that make him less fit? Or what if this individual was a health care provider and he somehow contracted the disease by an infected needle? How are we going to know this if we are going to automaticity assume that he is gay? For this reason, these individuals are less likely to advertise and inquirer others of their illness and thus, spread the virus even further.

I think that this speech is appropriate for its time, the 1980’s, because of the huge increase of AIDS positive cases in the United States. This was a way for Ferraro to voice her concerns of our well-being and tried to educate others on the negative affects of discrimination towards others. If individuals begin to claim their disease, do we as a society still need to make their lives more difficult by separating them from society and deeming them “bad” for everyone? No, I think that once someone has the courage and wiliness to claim their illness do we (the public) then have to recognize this accomplishment and honor them by accepting them for their courage and lend them support.

“Non-dicrimation must become more than just a nice idea. Discrimination is the most unpatriotic of acts. By blocking the expression of talent and by preventing individuals from soaring, they (institutions) rob the entire nation of the greatness it could attain.” – Geraldine Ferraro

5 thoughts on “How we spread AIDS through Discrimination

  1. It is interesting to think about the spreading of disease in relation to discrimination, but I feel it does not fully address the how or why this seems to occur. AIDS and other diseases of similar nature are most prevalent among the lower sociology-economic levels. There are plenty of reasons that can be extended to connect to this reasoning, such as: lower levels of education, more unprotected sex, less availability to healthcare, etc.

  2. I think the previous comment feeds right into the stereotypical viewpoint Ferraro was trying to discourage. If the educated and more privileged members of society are still blaming HIV prevalence on those who have not been given the same opportunities of education and healthcare 20 years later, it is discrimination. The people who are infected today are not the same individuals who were infected in 1988 (some may be, but upon progression of HIV to AIDS, the average remaining lifespan is only 4 years). Yet the reasons they are still facing such barriers to treatment and such pressure to keep their medical history a secret are the same. It is the fault of people who blame race, socio-economic status, or education for the spread of HIV that these infected individuals still do not feel comfortable openly accepting their diagnosis.
    I think the comparison to Hitler might have been a little extreme, but the principle can certainly be applied. In particular, for those who did inherit the virus or who were exposed at no fault of their own, the discrimination they face (especially if no treatment leads to a death sentence) is comparable to genocide.

  3. I understand how discrimination of AIDS victims could be detrimental to AIDS victims. But I do not know if it would spread AIDS. I certainly do agree hate towards those individuals was much greater in the 80’s than now, however I still think people would feel uneasy around an HIV+ individual. I guess if fear of discrimination would keep an individual from telling others about it, that could help it spread. But i still do not see how a rational human being would knowingly spread the virus regardless of how segregated they feel. Unless they were not rational after discovering the illness. I think as time moves forward life as an AIDS victim will get easier. As new treatments are discovered and the life expectancy for and HIV+ individual increases we will see a much lessened fear of individuals with AIDS or HIV+ (Magic Johnson). It is only natural for a person to fear something that could kill them; its only human to be cautious.

  4. I agree with Optimus prime… Does discrimination spread AIDS? This doesnt really show how this happens, rather that discrimination negatively affects those with AIDS making those who are infected fear their disease. When AIDS and HIV began to be discovered and recognized, they did not know much; eventually they attributed AIDS/HIV to the gay community. I think discrimination leads to a lack of knowledge about AIDS and HIV but not the spread.

  5. Tazam: What a robust discussion you have begun with your choice or artifact and focus. I wonder what you (and your commenters) would say if Ferraro used the “inequality” instead of discrimination? Could you argue that inequality might help exacerbate the AIDS epidemic? Remember, one of the slogans of AIDS activists in the 80’s and 90’s (and maybe even today) is Silence = Death. What do you think they meant? Check out this reference for more info:

    Also, a number of you make a distinction between those who are HIV+ from their own actions (either through sex or intravenous drug use) and those “innocent victims” who may have contracted HIV through a blood transfusion (read: Ryan White) or an accidental needle stick. Who do these distinctions serve?

    Last word: remember to proofread and spell check for mistakes.

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