The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) epidemic in America was a huge crisis during the 1900s. Not knowing the true nature of AIDS, the society and policy makers simply alienated Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) positive population. The stigma of AIDS exacerbated existing problems of prejudice and social inequity. However, Mary Fisher’s inspiring speech cleverly titled, “A Whisper of AIDS,” effectively promoted awareness of HIV and AIDS throughout the United States, and brought a change to a public policy on AIDS related issues. Her speech demonstrates the role of activist in shaping public policy in 1900s.
The human immune system disorder now known as AIDS was first identified in the United States in 1981. A number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment. At this time, AIDS did not yet have a name, but it quickly became obvious that all the men were suffering from a common syndrome. By the end of 1996, over 379,258 American men, women, and children lost their lives to AIDS according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Initially AIDS epidemic were defined by “the ‘Four H’s” of the disease risk groups-homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs, and Haitians. Since none of these groups was a part of the social mainstream, it was easy for society to overlook their suffering or to create bizarre explanations for it. People widely believed that these groups of infected people were victims of God’s Wrath. The burdens faced by communities already struggling with discrimination, poverty, a lack of health care, and drug addiction have increased incrementally in the wake of this disease. The vast numbers of HIV cases in these communities have provoked fear and contempt among the politically powerful rather than mobilize them to develop adequate resources for essential medical research and necessary systems of care.
Bibliography: Kirp, David, and Ronald Bayer. AIDS in the Industrialized Democracies. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992. Lerner, Eric, and Mary Hombs Ratzan, Scott. AIDS: Effective Health Communication for the 90s. Boston, Massachusetts: Taylor & Francis, 1993. Riley, John [ 1 ]. Eric Lerner and Mary Hombs. AIDS Crisis in America. (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1998), 16 [ 2 ] [ 3 ]. Scott Ratzan. AIDS: Effective Health Communication for the 90s. (Boston, Massachusetts: Taylor & Francis, 1993), 1-5 [ 4 ] [ 5 ]. Mary Fisher. “A Whisper Of AIDS: Address To The Republican National Convention.” 1992 Republican National Convention Address. 19 August 1992, in Gifts of Speech http://gos.sbc.edu/f/fisher.html (accessed November 3, 2012) [ 6 ] [ 7 ]. Alice Steinbach, “HIV-positive Mary Fisher tells GOP about 'our ' disease,” The Baltimore Sun, August 16, 1992, http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1992-08-16/features/1992229222_1_mary-fisher-mary-world-fate/3 (accessed November 15, 2012) [ 8 ] [ 9 ]. John Riley. “ACT UP Accomplishments and Chronology in Brief” ACT UP, April 24, 2012, http://www.actupny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=106:act-up-chronology-in-brief&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=50 (accessed November 16, 2012)