Ryan White was thirteen years old when he was diagnosed with AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion in 1984. Although he lived another five years, he was told he would only live another 6 months. One could only imagine anticipating death at such a young age. Not only was he scared, but he probably felt so alone, for he was banned and shunned from his school in Indiana. Finding a person who was educated about AIDS in the 1980's was nearly impossible, and that costed Ryan White the short time he had left to fulfill his life. At the time, people thought the only way one could contract the HIV virus was if they were a homosexual male, but no one ever considered any other way of getting the disease, such as through needles. Although Ryan's doctor told him and his mother that it was safe for him to go back to school, his school banned him from returning because of their ignorance of the disease. Ryan White was treated as if it was his fault he was ill, and for five years, he missed out on friends, high school, and he died a month before he was supposed to graduate. His story shows how people made decisions upon things they had no knowledge of because they were fearful.
In this video, Frank Spinelli, MD speaks on the many " scars" that came with having HIV/AIDS, as a young man in the 1980's-1990's. Many homosexual men believed that contracting the disease was bound to happen and those who weren't homosexual, believed it was a punishment for their "lifestyle". Today, there are different treatments to help alleviate the pains of having AIDS and lengthen the lifespan of patients. Back then, there was hardly anything a person could do to help with their illness, and it was so hard to hide the fact that you had AIDS, that it just made it easier for people to shame you. For example, a symptom of aids was Kaposi's sarcoma, which caused dark lesions on the skin, and lipoatrophy, which caused very noticeable weight loss and placement around the body and face. Men were so scared of being judged for having HIV and labeled as just a homosexual with no worth, they didn't even want to look skinny. Frank Spinelli, MD really highlighted how much harder society made living with AIDS. Especially when you had to deal with your illness, and everyone's discrimination towards the disease at the same time.
On November. 7, 1991, Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. This shocked the entire nation because it showed how anyone could have gotten this disease. In 2014, Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, made statements towards Magic Johnson that shamed him of having the virus. When Johnson responded to the statements, the one thing that stood out to me was when he said having HIV shouldn't define your character. That is the main issue in society when it comes down to HIV and AIDS; we let it label who people are. Associating ever person with HIV or AIDS with bad lifestyle is like assuming every person diagnosed with lung cancer was a heavy smoker who didn't care about their health. An illness is an illness, not a fault in someones behavior.
It is often hard to come to a consensus when it comes to discussing the controversial issue of AIDS. That's why Elizabeth Pisani created the perfect presentation to demonstrate that it's hard to judge, or form a "rational" opinion about AIDS, when different people have different people have different definitions of rational. I focused on when she talked about what a drug addict thinks is rational, and what a politician thinks is rational because they are so different from one another. Although for a long time, contracting AIDS was often associated with being a homosexual male, another common way people get the illness is through sharing needles, the way drug users do. Pisani explained that a drug dealer thinks it's rational to risk contracting AIDS and getting high, as apposed to getting arrested for having multiple, personal, clean needles in their possession. I understand why she chose to speak about this because how can one judge a drug addict for getting AIDS, when in their mind, it was the only choice they had. She then moved on to average politician's point of view which raised the question of how could they rationally and profitably lower the rate of contracting AIDS. Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1979 - 1990, made a very bold decision to create a needle exchange program. What was the point exactly? Why would any government official help drug users? Thatcher created the program with the simple fact in mind that she couldn't just eliminate drug addicts all together. However she could cut the cost of funding for HIV/AIDS treatments by lowering the risk of contracting this disease. Doing this, she cut the percentage of drug users in the United Kingdom with the disease down to less than two percent.This portion of the video shows how government went from not being concerned with AIDS, to realizing that it's not going away and something has to be done.