AIDS has quickly reached North America’s consciousness and culture since its beginning manifestations there in the early 1980’s. At that time, before AIDS was even recognized as a viral disease, it had a frightening and powerful impact on the identities of those infected, and on the imaginations of everyone. Discrete periods of AIDS consciousness have been identified by AIDS theorists, and there are definable attributes of comprehension as evidenced in the media and general populace. Little was known about AIDS at first, but the medical and technological knowledge base continues to grow. AIDS education is offered to elementary schoolchildren and an actor has received an Oscar award for portraying an AIDS-afflicted individual. AIDS has reached, at a minimum, the consciousness of people around the world; as a result of the variety of perceptions—including moral perceptions—of the disease, being marked by AIDS creates a complex identity distinct from that brought about by having any other fatal illness.
AIDS originally was considered, in North America, to be an illness of marginalized individuals: gay men, IV drug users, and Haitians. Early case studies suggested that AIDS is a disease that is sexually transmitted. This created a stigma attached to any individual with the AIDS virus because of cultural discomfort with issues of sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. Persons with AIDS were evicted from housing and were refused admission...
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