Discrimination and homophobia during the AIDS epidemic


Ava Gjertsen, Editor

The AIDS epidemic sparked waves of panic, fear, and homophobia. This was mainly targeted at gay men and caused even more homophobia than what existed already at the time. Discussing the misconceptions and hatred spewed during this epidemic is important, so said bigotry can be avoided in case of future situations.

HIV and AIDS was discovered in June of 1981. The first official case was reported on June 5 of that year in a weekly report. When the disease first broke out, it was most common within gay men, which of course fueled people’s bigotry and homophobia. An LGBT newspaper known as “The Bay Area Reporter” published a mention of “gay men’s pneumonia.” Some people even went as far as to refer to it as “gay cancer,” which is far from true and extremely cruel. The world’s eyes were focused on gays, so much so that they didn’t care that the virus had been detected in the bloodstream of injection drug users.

Several activists for the LGBT community rose up during this time to defend themselves and countering groups/people gave them much backlash and demanded to revoke their rights, choosing to blame them for the whole ordeal. On March 22, 1980, before the disease was officially seen, evangelical Christians created a petition to cease gay rights. When Ronald Reagan was elected, he was on the majority’s side, and refused to assist with the medical crisis. This caused more and more issues among the queer community.

The plague wasn’t all horrific, though. When no one else would, lesbians banded together and volunteered at hospitals to care for men who contracted HIV/AIDS. It is truly inspiring to see that no matter what, the LGBT community stuck together and kept fighting. The world hasn’t seen the last of bigotry during crisis; in recent times, Asian people have been victims of intense racism and blame for COVID-19. People need to do better and and not let their panic get the better of them and instead should fight the true issue: the virus itself.