‘Profound’ Changes in HIV/AIDS Epidemic Since 1980s, Opinion Piece Says
In the United States, there was a period of 15 years -- beginning in 1981 -- when people died from AIDS-related complications "all the time," when a "virus was invading the culture" and "[n]o one knew how," Dudley Clendinen, former editorial writer and national correspondent for the New York Times, writes in an essay examining the changes in the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the 1980s, during which Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Angels in America" is set (Clendinen, New York Times, 12/16). The play follows the impact of AIDS on a group of New York residents during the 1980s. The television adaptation of the show, which was directed by Mike Nichols and stars Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson, recently aired on HBO in two installments, titled "Millennium Approaches" and "Perestroika" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5). Clendinen says that the "mounting death toll among gay men in the United States -- and the striking lack of sympathy expressed during the Reagan and then Bush administrations -- drew legions of angry homosexuals from the closet into the gay rights movement during the 1980s and early 1990s." He adds that it was "the swelling need for AIDS research and treatment which became the gay cause that politicians could support in return for gay money and votes." Now, HIV-positive people who "have access to good doctors and good drugs can ... expect to live to be old," and the "resultant changes have been profound," Clendinen says. With HIV/AIDS a "more manageable condition, drugs became the focus of private desire and public policy, and the earlier, hard-won focus on prevention was lost," Clendinen says. He concludes that unfortunately, with HIV/AIDS "seen as controllable ... homosexual men have lost much of their fear of being infected, and of infecting others" and the incidence of HIV among gay men has "begun to climb" (New York Times, 12/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.