As we study Marlon Riggs and discuss the reactions to HIV/AIDS, we can compare today’s fear of Ebola among people to the early days of the HIV/AIDS outbreak. The media portrayed HiV/AIDS in the early 1980s on television and newspapers with headlines creating fear among the general population covering “bans on gays” at dentists and doctors. Now, we have travel bans and people from poor countries being stereotyped and left behind.
Although the two viruses are different in many ways, the fearful reactions are similar. HIV/AIDS was, at first, ignored as it affected mainly marginalized communities, such as the gay men community among African-Americans who were HIV-positive. In fact, Marlon Riggs worked to get attention to these members of our population as they were battling several stigmas around their identities as gay, Black, and “infected”.
Stereotypes were generated as the fear of the virus spread among the people. Similarly, today, Ebola was ignored for a while until it affected more than just the poorest countries in the world. The United States only took real action once we were affected and “under attack” by this virus. Again, the media has contributed to a public outcry surrounding an outbreak.