Looking back and reflecting
Camr2006 San Francisco AIDS Walk at Golden Gate Park. Photo by Jere Keys (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tyreseus/191095514/)
June 5th, 2011 marked the 30th year of the international HIV/AIDS epidemic.
I connected with Dr. James Gillett, Chair of Health, Aging & Society, and Associate Professor of Sociology, whose book -- A Grassroots History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in North America -- was featured on POZ Magazine’s Top 100 People, Things, and Ideas We Love in December 2011. We discussed how those currently living with and affected by HIV/AIDS have adopted a more involved, self-empowered role with their health and how the public’s view of the epidemic has evolved.
The patient role in Western medicine was traditionally passive, Gillett said, but people living with HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s stepped up and insisted on being involved in their own health. Though this sort of patient activism was influenced by social movements from the 1960s and 1970s, it was first expressed as a patient specific movement by those living with HIV/AIDS. Now this sort of patient involvement is common among cancer survivors along with other critical illnesses.
Until recently, many people on the front lines of HIV/AIDS work were hesitant to devote energy to looking at the history of the epidemic, Gillett said. The emphasis in addressing the problem of HIV/AIDS was concentrated on developing and implementing strategies for prevention and treatment. After three decades, however, people are beginning to take a greater interest in looking back on the epidemic and reflecting on its history.
To put the issue into context, Gillett used an example of a fire blazing in a house. People don’t sit there while their home is ablaze and think about how fire exists -- they fight the blaze, Gillett said.
But Gillett, among others, knows it’s crucial to be reflective, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fight the fire at the same time.
- Article by Natalie Paddon, Faculty of Social Sciences / First Generation Student Media Relations Officer