Parallels between the AIDS crisis and COVID-19

It’s really uncanny how many parallels you can draw between the AIDS epidemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s even more uncanny how just in the last few weeks (and really, the entire year) we’ve also seen how similar the Asian-(American) experience has been in regards to AIDS and COVID.

The Manifesto from the Caucus of Asian & Pacific-Islander AIDS Activists details the historical problems AAPI people faced at the heights of the AIDs crisis. The rallying cry at the end of pg 637 almost mirrors sentiment today about COVID-19 and AAPI violence: “FIGHT RACISM, FIGHT SEXISM, FIGHT HOMOHPHOBIA, FIGHT GOVERNMENT NEGLECT, FIGHT INVISIBILITY, FIGHT AIDS

JOIN US”.

The wording is almost similar to many a social media caption or hashtag today, and the manifesto reads like an extended infographic one might see today on recent AAPI violence and commentary surrounding causes of violence against the AAPI communities.

A lot of the AAPI hate today stems from prior racist ideas such as fetishization of Asian women, the model minority myth and so forth, and many of these are historically present in issues like the AIDS crisis as well. The manifesto notes issues the AAPI community face like the threat of deportation in positive cases of AIDS, lack of treatment and resources from the CDCs and cities and even lack of recognition racially, being categorized as ‘other’ (pg 636,637). If you look at the tweet below, you can see some of the concerns raised by AAPI folk today in regards to recent hate, and it honestly appears that much hasn’t changed since AIDS was at its worst. Social media posts today denouncing hate are just more modern takes of the Manifesto here, but the issues are almost all the same.

3 thoughts on “Parallels between the AIDS crisis and COVID-19”

  1. First off, I really enjoyed reading your post. It is definitely interesting to observe the parallels between AIDS and COVID-19, as there are many. Although I didn’t write about this specific parallel, your comments about the role racism plays in these struggles were something I discussed in my post, in relation to Angels in America. Just as you said, the lack of simply acknowledging this foundation of racism reminded me of how Angels in America discusses the aspect of “no racial past” in America, highlighting this ignorance of racism and lack of dedication to racial justice.

  2. I think that the parallels that you pointed out in this are very true and appreciate your perspective on the role of racism in both epidemics. I had not heard a lot about racism within the AIDs epidemic since the main focus I’ve read about is based on homophobia, but seeing how deep the racism ran within the AIDs epidemic and then seeing how it is mirrored and repeated within the current Coronavirus pandemic is saddening and I wish there was more acknowledgement of this when the AIDs epidemic is talked about.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post and fully agree with your connections between the bigotry of the AIDS epidemic and the pandemic we’re currently living through. It is hard to miss the blatant displays of racism targeted towards AAPI communities, but still, so many people in our society deny the extreme racism that has stemmed from COVID. To understand the reality of these hate crimes, Americans must accept our racist history- especially in terms of widespread illness and healthcare. Your post reminded me of Dr. Schweighofer’s presentation for class and some of the harrowing statistics she provided. I was shocked to learn how disproportionately African Americans were affected by the AIDS epidemic because I was ever only taught about the homophobia that occurred. Realizing that the AIDS epidemic and COVID are so closely tied with racism is difficult but exposes countless racist institutions in our country.

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