Fear of Anthrax Similar to AIDS Anxiety, Village Voice Feature Writer Says
Richard Goldstein, feature writer for the Village Voice, writes this week in a piece titled "Anthrax as AIDS: The Psychic Toll" that although the "agent is different [from HIV], the anxiety is essentially the same" for anthrax. Having lived at the "epicenter of the [AIDS] epidemic" as a gay man in New York during the 1980s, Goldstein says he is "hyper-vigilant" about the anthrax threat because of his "memory of AIDS." He writes that he "retain[s] the imprint of AIDS anxiety and the knowledge that what's most terrifying about a crisis is not what you know but what you don't." Goldstein notes that "[a]ll across the city and eventually the world, even people at negligible risk [for HIV infection] were terrified" in the beginning of the epidemic.
Anthrax Will Pass
But there are "crucial differences" between AIDS and anthrax, "not the least of which is that this time we really are all at risk." As a result, the government will be "much quicker to respond if the worst occurs" with anthrax, and "it won't take years for the president to utter the name of the infectious agent, as it did with AIDS." Furthermore, he writes, "[A]ny terrorist attack is likely to be acute but finite; unlike HIV, it will pass." However, the "hellish possibilities that a sexually transmitted agent doesn't pose" include overwhelmed hospitals, "extinguished" social life and a sealed city. To respond to the anthrax scare, Goldstein says, "You begin by respecting anxiety," then you "[d]emand that the government make a plan that maximizes survival" and know that when the danger passes "for better or worse you will forget." Goldstein concludes, "I can attest to the fact that fear, when fully expressed, can be a source of safety and strength" (Goldstein, Village Voice, 10/24-30).