Sunday, September 9, 2007

Reality Can Be Harsh

The AIDS epidemic offers a particularly vivid insight into how the language of medicine -- and the use of language in our culture -- has been forced to change in order to deal with reality.

Although initially identified as GRID (Gay-Related Infectious Disease), when AIDS started decimating America's gay population many people simply did not want to talk about the disease. Considered a phenomenon which belonged to a socially and politically unattractive minority, AIDS coverage by the mainstream media was scant, frequently misinformed, and often inflammatory.

Several decades ago, a popular movie was entitled No Sex, Please. We're British

Under the directorship of the Reagan and Bush administrations, the National Institutes of Health clung to an extremely conservative political agenda. AIDS has now spread to the heterosexual population.

  • In many cities, infectious disease practices specialize in the treatment of AIDS patients.

  • In some cities, separate hospital wards have been exclusively devoted to the care of AIDS patients.

  • Whereas, prior to the AIDS epidemic, people were terrified to be seen purchasing a condom, public service announcements urging the use of a condom are now routinely aired on television.

All this has happened within a short and terrible period of our lives during which the language of the AIDS epidemic has been assimilated into our cultural landscape.

The unflagging efforts of gay activist organizations and the gay press deserve full credit for developing today's language of "safe sex." Sadly, we have yet to find a cure for this horrific disease.

[Consciousness Raising Exercise #12]

Next: No More Hiding Behind Euphemisms

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