Failed Responses to AIDS

In the Peter Lewis Allen article that we read entitled AIDS in the USA, there was a section called “Mistakes Were Made.” The section title foreshadows a section primarily dealing with the failures of the United States in relation to the AIDS epidemic. Allen points out that there have been several AIDS successes in countries with fewer resources economically and medically compared to the United States. Despite America’s failure to hamper the spread of AIDS in the United States, he does acknowledge that the disease spread swiftly and quietly for quite some time until it became detected. One Allen’s staggering statistics claimed that the time AIDS was being reported in the United States, thirty percent of the gay men in San Francisco were infected. This was in part due to the lack of focus on disease prevention. Rather American focus is on the treatment, not the cure. Being a part of a capitalist society opens the floodgates for such instances to allow vulnerabilities like this.

Allen also ties back in to a previous section dealing with religion, and how religious communities reacted to the outbreak of AIDS on American soil. He noted that in 1986, for example, there became a movement from the Presbyterian Church in the United States stating that AIDS was not a punishment for immoral behavior. This particular part of the section seems particularly interesting because Allen obviously felt the need the point out that this was a movement from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, not the Presbyterian Church as a whole. This begs the question of whether he was trying to maintain scope within the article or whether there were differing views with in different regions of the Presbyterian sect. This notion perpetuates considering Allen’s next sentence about the Methodist bishops releasing similar statements about AIDS not being a curse from God. In this part, Allen does not limit to the bishops within the United States.

In another portion of the section, Allen reflects back on the public figures of the time and their lack of contributions. The most notable national figure pointed out was President Bill Clinton. During his time in office, Clinton fired former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders over an AIDS prevention issue. Subsequently after the firing of Elders, Clinton’s serious mistake occurred through his appointed AIDS czars, whom proved to be weak and ineffective. Essentially, the conclusion seemed to be that AIDS prevention, especially in regards to intravenous drug users, stagnated between the years of 1981 through Clinton’s term in office. Interestingly enough though, this message would seem contradictory compared to the Clinton Foundation. According to the website, Clinton aided building a healthcare system to help repress the spread of HIV and AIDS. His site claims that he sought to essentially leverage his connections to help make a “measureable difference” in the areas he cared most about. Comparing these two side by side, there is an obvious difference in the picture painted about Clinton and AIDS prevention. This makes me begin to wonder if he recognized his failures in response to AIDS during his presidency.

Even though Clinton is revered as one of the greatest political talents, I guess he learned a play from Jimmy Carter on how to fail (at least in one aspect) as President but leverage that position to make a difference.

3 thoughts on “Failed Responses to AIDS

  1. The firing of Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was a huge mistake in my opinion. She proposed a unique idea of masterbation education and how this could help prevent sexually transmitted diseases however, the media blew it out of proportion. Doing a YouTube search of critical snips concerning her speech, the media took her proposal and assumed that she wanted to teach small children about sex and masterbation. I think what she was trying to promote was education to teens and sexually active adults and not 5 year olds. I think that people were too quick to assume and criticize Elders comments which, inevitably lead to her dismissal. She was ahead of her time, in my opinion and I believe that she was trying to prevent the spread of AIDS in a new radical way. It would be interesting to see how many people today would agree with her proposals in the 80’s and if they think that it would have worked to combat AIDS.

  2. Team STI: Your close reading of certain parts of Allen’s article is interesting. I think he was mostly trying to emphasize that not *all* religious figures and/or denominations were homophobic and/or AIDS phobic. And as for your questioning of Bill Clinton and his policies on HIV/AIDS, were you looking at what he has done with his foundation or were you looking at what his foundation website *said* he did during his two terms? This wasn’t clear to me. I think he (like George Bush, the dad) had a lot more freedom to do the things *after* they were out of office. I’ll be interested to see if this is true after Barack Obama is out of office as well.

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