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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 Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, also known as AIDS, is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection and an ongoing epidemic that began at peak intensity in the 1980's in the United States. AIDs is most commonly known as a health term, but it can also be classified as a death sentence, a gendered and sexualized term, and a catalyst for an era in American history. 

The importance of this guide is to illuminate resources of AIDs that give a multidimensional view and show its historical, medical, and emotional human impact. My interest began when I took an AIDs literature class and was taught a wealth of knowledge from literature, history, and the reality of AIDs for people at the time. Through this LibGuide I hope to pass on that information through these sources dedicated to informing about the virus in all of its dimensions from medical sources and historical exhibits to works relaying how it impacted many facets of human life. This guide is for college students who want to expand their breadth and depth of knowledge on the AIDs epidemic and its various impacts from general information in books and websites to specific articles and works of literature.


The National Library of Medicine

This is the world's largest comprehensive medical library that includes several notable medical databases. The databases included are PubMed which includes millions of biomedical citations from Medline, Medline Plus that contains current health information, Open-i which is a visual medical search engine, MeSH is a medical thesaurus, and which is self-explanatory, among others. This resource is valuable about learning the medical realities of AIDs as a disease. One caveat is that "aid" also means to assist; therefore, it is most effective in medical databases to look up "HIV" for AIDs specific information. This database also surprisingly brought up results on all three topics of AIDs this LibGuide discusses, and it is where I got most of my sources in each section. It is important to note when conducting your own research and reading this guide that the topics will often overlap. More helpful information on this database and FAQs can be found here.

Gale Literature Resource Center

This database provides access to biographical, bibliographical, and critical analysis from the core sources Contemporary Authors, Dictionary of Literary Biography, and Contemporary Literary Criticism in the Gale Literature database. It includes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, history, and journalism. This database is useful in looking up literature on the topic of AIDs such as memoirs by survivors or their loved ones like Paul Monette's Borrowed Time, or fictional literature that also illuminates human impact of the disease like Susan Sontag's The Way We Live Now, as well as a plethora of literary criticism. The detailed help manual is located at the bottom of the homepage.

The New York Times

A subscription to the New York Times database allows for unlimited, full text access to the New York Times archive dating back to the first year of publication in 1851. This allows for searching for news on AIDs in the present and also gives access to articles on AIDs during the time of the epidemic as it was current news in the 1980s. This database's resources have the ability to capture the candid reality of the history of AIDs in documents telling the narrative as it was unraveling, which is insightful and useful in connecting the present to the past. More helpful information on this database and FAQs can be found here.

Search Strategies

Search Engines: 



University Libraries | University at Albany

Databases listed Above.

Key Terminology in Well Rounded Research on AIDs:

These terms will be most useful in searching medical databases.

"AIDs" AND "HIV" AND "disease"

"HIV" AND "symptoms"

"HIV" AND "treatment"

These terms will be most useful in searching the impact AIDs had on people's lives and emotions.

AIDs in literature

"AIDs" and memoir

These terms will be most useful looking up general history of AIDs.

The time period you are looking into regarding AIDs.

"AIDs" AND "epidemic" and date limiters.

The place you want to know as impacted by AIDs.

"AIDs" OR "HIV" AND "epidemic" AND "United States"

Any people/person as wanted to know impacted by AIDs.

"AIDs" and "Paul Monette"

Tips for Specific Searching:

Use limiters like date ranges.

Utilize advanced search options.

Using Boolean Operators:

AND combines keywords when you want a result to yield information on several keywords.

OR when you want either keyword to appear in the search.

NOT excludes keywords when you do not want a topic present in a search.

More information on these strategies can be found here.