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IST 605: The AIDs Epidemic in America

Resources associated with the AIDs Epidemic in the United States which began in 1981.


The AIDs Epidemic Archive 

This is an archived website available through a New York Times health topic and is an extremely interesting resource as it houses all the New York Times articles on AIDs from 1981-2001. This spans from the emergence of the disease before it was even called AIDs in the U.S., to the discussion on the well-known by then virus in the beginning of the 21st century. It also contains more resources beyond articles like a video index, additional web pages with a focus on AIDs, and origin articles taking place in Africa. This is a great general site to begin historical research with on the epidemic, notably if certain years or periods of AIDs are of interest for research. The limitations are that it does not include articles to the present so there are 20 years of relevant current articles missing, and it is also an archived page which is not as up to date as other webpages. It is still included however as an invaluable historical webpage that can serve to immerse the learner in the news of AIDs at critical periods in its timeline.

AIDS, Posters, and Stories of Public Health: A People's History of a Pandemic

This website, found in the National Library of Medicine through the National Institutes of Health, is an online exhibition and digital collection which tells the history of the AIDs virus through visual formats. While AIDs is cited as a pandemic in this source not an epidemic, it is still clear this resource focuses mainly on the virus' interactions in the United States and what life looked like during the outbreak and since. This resource contains the chronology of the AIDs virus and also media such as propaganda sketches, photography of AIDs protests and marches, and posters created by organizations at the height of the epidemic that lend a visual understanding to the viewer creating a multimedia input of information, and documents of the history beyond verbal retelling.

Against The Odds: Action on AIDs

This website is another click through online exhibition found in the National Library of Medicine through the National Institutes of Health. It offers more background information on the history of the AIDs epidemic, specifically the Memorial Quilt with photographs of it from the 80s, photo galleries and audio tours of past activism, how the world as a whole and the World Health Organization responded to the virus, as well as some photographs highlighting medical aspects of the disease such as its appearance under a microscope. This shows an intersection between medical and historical relevance as it is important to note occurs across these sources, but the nature of the multimedia documentation of many aspects of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s by this exhibition make it more suitable for a historical perspective with human impact and medical knowledge interspersed as the materials give a window to the past. This source is unique because unlike the other exhibitions it includes audio making it more dynamic and accessible.

Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture 

This website is a third online exhibition found in the National Library of Medicine through the National Institutes of Health, as you can see this database holds a lot of pertinent information on AIDs. This resource contains digitized posters and other ephemera concerning HIV/AIDS from 1981 to the present day and they are all organized by themes like fear mongering, how different populations responded to AIDs, and different organizations' publications such as The Whitman Walker Clinic known for its expertise in AIDs. Like many of these resources, this webpage can have a deep intersection with human impact in the way that it shows emotional depictions of the times concerning AIDs, but these posters are historical documents first and foremost and can inform about the feeling and climate of the time. As such this source is especially unique as it demonstrates all three domains of AIDs information at once for a researcher, with the added capability of even further narrowing the scope of the information to selected themes.


The Origins of AIDs by Jacques Pepin.

ISBN: 0521186374

This book is a deep dive into the origins of the AIDs virus up until it was officially identified in 1981 in the United States. It looks into events that triggered the start of the disease that would eventually lead to an epidemic as it evolved and was transmitted internationally before it made its way to North American soil, beginning in Africa. It synthesizes medical, political, and historical aspects to illuminate the chronology of the onset of this disease. This source is useful as the background of the virus and how certain historical circumstances like a rise in prostitution and new medical interventions in the 1960s across the world eventually lead to many lives being lost in the United States as it made its way here. It can give researchers of this topic a necessary perspective of how the events leading up to this epidemic unfolded in a logical progression of cause and effect leading to creation of the virus which creates further understanding of the kinds of situations that lead to epidemics and pandemics as a whole. 

Literature in an Age of Plague: The AIDS Epidemic edited by D. Quentin Miller

ISBN: 1108415601

This is the 18th chapter in American Literature in Transition, 1980–1990 published in 2017, written by my professor in the undergraduate class I took on AIDs literature. It encompasses how literature changed during the epidemic as well as relevant authors and writings that were produced at the time. These fall into different themes in the chapter like "An Epidemic of Signification '' which describes the various ways AIDs has been referred to in literature, Literature as Activism, and The Politics of Grief among others. This chapter is meaningful to me personally as the work of someone who was seminal in my interest in this topic but also for the fact that it sifts through the evolution of how AIDs was written about as it transitioned from a novel disease to a well-known epidemic. This is a great preface to reading any of the human impact literature listed on that page as it gives a thorough background of why these writers wrote the way they did and for what purpose, their personal histories', and how it affects literature today. I listed a PDF available in the title for access.


Fighting an Epidemic in Political Context: Thirty-Five Years of HIV/AIDS Policy Making in the United States by Tasleem Padamsee

This article discusses how the history of HIV/AIDS lead to governmental action that reveals limitations and possibilities of United States public health policy in the future, but only the 1980s have been well documented in AIDs research. This article proposes to change that by sorting through and analyzing many interviews, news articles, and policies created since the discovery of AIDs. It covers from the first policies which downplayed the severity of the virus, to current normalized treatment and strive for an end to the disease all together. The advantage we as learners have by exploring a topic that is 40 years out like the AIDs epidemic is cumulative coverage like these articles that we are able to dissect themes out of the plethora of existing data. This article is also important to include to remember even though we have come far medically since the onset of the epidemic in this country, there is still no cure so further research is still needed which is part the inevitable continuous cycle of the world of information: constantly learn from the past in order to better the future. It also explores AIDs in the specific context of also being a political symbol in the past.


The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer

ISBN: 0452257980

This play by Larry Kramer is a largely autobiographical retelling of the AIDs epidemic from 1981-1984 and was first performed in 1985 in New York City. The story unfolds through the main character Ned Weeks who is the founder of a well-known AIDs advocacy organization, and it chronicles the realities of this disease for gay men at this time and place. The end punctuates the journeys of the characters by noting the number of those infected continues to increase, so more stories like this are inevitable. This play is multifaceted in its usefulness for this topic, one that it portrays the AIDs epidemic personally and within a relevant timeframe and place in the U.S, and two its credibility is heightened because of the author's own experience and all of the characters being based on living people who were deep in the advocacy of the AIDs movement of the time. Since its production it is now on Broadway and well known which is so important because it is vital for people to see the history of events like this configured into art to spread awareness. This play also gives one more unique perspective and way to absorb the realities of the AIDs epidemic in a temporal way and its representation to people who lived in it at its height through dramatized reality.


“In Time of Plague” by John McIntyre

This essay depicts how poetry about AIDs has shifted over the years, beginning at the emergence of the virus in 1982 to the early 2000s in content and awareness. This collection not only gives insight into the historical significance of how this art form has shifted alongside feelings about AIDs, but also allows access to many poets and poems on the subject which are really interesting to read and compare and contrast how, like anything else, art evolves with understanding and climate around big topics like AIDs. Seeing the evolution of the vocabulary and understanding of the virus from the onset to the more current understanding is such an illuminating commentary on how time passed during this time and shows primary documentation of this evolution of understanding of this disease which is powerful to see displayed in verse.