AIDS in America

How People in America Reacted to AIDS

What Happened?

The history of HIV and AIDS in the USA began in 1981, when the United States of America became the first country to officially recognise a strange new illness among a small number of gay men. America brought AIDS to the public and the peoples' reactions made AIDS one of the most controversial and feared diseases of all time ("History of HIV & AIDS in the U.S.A.").

When did it occur?

"In the early 1980s, the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic in America saw the demonisation of minority groups and, in ‘Patient Zero’, an individual" ("The fault of others: exiles, scapegoats and the human face of disease"). From the beginning, the disease was publicly linked to the gay community.

Where did it occur?

It is accepted that the origin of AIDS probably lies in Africa. ("History of HIV & AIDS in the U.S.A.").The USA was the first country to bring AIDS into the public consciousness and the American reaction undoubtedly contributed to the establishment of AIDS as one of the feared diseases.

Who was involved?

From the beginning, the gay community was being blamed for bringing AIDS to America. The majority of Americans tried to blame other people for the disease, including the "four H club", homosexuals, heroin addicts, haemophiliacs, and Haitians. There were people that did not fit into these categories that contracted the illness. ("History of HIV & AIDS in the U.S.A.").

How did it occur?

People contract AIDS from other people with the disease. It began to spread and people noticed that many that contracted the illness were homosexual. They blamed the gay commuity for bringing the disease upon Americans and found many different scapegoats for the disease.

Why did it occur?

The disease was spreading and becoming more common so people needed something to blame. AIDS is a disease in which there is a severe loss of the body's cellular immunity (Gallant, 24). "From the outset, AIDS was associated with a high level of stigma and discrimination. This prejudice arose in part because AIDS was linked to groups, such as gay men and intravenous drug users, that were already highly stigmatised, but also because evidence-based information about what was causing AIDS, and how it might be passed on, was in short supply" ("History of HIV & AIDS in the U.S.A.").

Patient Zero

Patient Zero was a concept born out of the early years of the AIDS epidemic in America. It was a term coined to show who a disease started with. ‘Patient Zero’ - the original carrier of the HIV virus who had therefore brought AIDS into the country was named Gaëtan Dugas, a Canadian who had died in 1984. "The idea of a single identifiable patient gave a personal identity to the disease. In this case, the description of the original carrier as a promiscuous gay flight attendant confirmed and directed mainstream media and public attitudes to the new disease. AIDS had a face" ("Patient Zero").

Relationship with The Crucible

The Crucible expresses the theme that when in a tough situation, people will blame others to save themselves.


In the Crucible, there are many examples of people trying to blame others of witchcraft in order for their lives to be spared. In Scene 1 of The Crucible, Abigail is in trouble for being out in the forest with the girls. Instead of owning up to her mistake, she blames others. " I want to open myself! I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand—I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Good Osburn with the devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil" (Miller, 15). This shows that because Abigail was in a tough situation, she started to blame other people for being with the devil in order for her to not be punished. This relates to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980's because people were so willing to blame a certain group for bringing AIDS to America, they didn't care about the consequences of their actions.


When Mary Warren returns from the court, she tells the Proctor's of how Sarah Good confessed to being a witch so she would not be hanged. " He sentenced her. He must-But not Sarah Good. For Sarah Good confessed, y‘see...That she sometimes made a compact with Lucifer, and wrote her name in his black book—with her blood—and bound herself to torment Christians till God‘s thrown down… and we all must worship Hell forevermore" (Miller, 19). Sarah Good confessed to being a witch so she would be hanged, even though she lied to do so. In the 1980's AIDS epidemic, people that contracted the disease were accused of homosexuality, and they would be ostracized. If they lied and said they were not homosexual or a heroin addict or other, they would not be punished.


When Elizabeth Proctor was being tried in court, her husband tried to save her. John was then accused of witchcraft but to prove his innocence, he showed how Abigail made up the whole witchcraft problem. "In the proper place—where my beasts are

bedded. Eight months now, sir, it is eight months. She used to serve me in my house,

sir. A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything. I know it now. I beg you, sir,

I beg you—see her for what she is. My wife, my dear good wife took this girl soon after,

sir, and put her out on the high road. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir….

Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. She thinks to dance with me on my wife‘s grave! And well she might!—for I thought of her softly, God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat! But it is a whore‘s vengeance, and you must see it; I set myself entirely in your hands, I know you must see it now. My wife is innocent, except she know a whore when she sees one" (Miller, 44). Proctor accuses Abigail of making up the trials by proving that she only wanted to accuse Elizabeth because of her affair with John. John blamed Abigail in order to save himself and his wife. In the AIDS epidemic, people constantly tried to blame others for the disease, and even blamed the disease on other health problems. No one wanted to know the truth, they just wanted to hear what they wanted to hear.


The Salem Witch Trials occured out of fear that witches were going to take over Salem. This is a parallel to the AIDS Epidemic because most Americans were afraid that AIDS would take over everyone and spread to every person and homosexuality would spread. People were afraid of the truth, so they did what they could to believe what they wanted to believe, not necessarily what was true, much like in The Crucible's portrayal of the Salem Witch Trials.

Works Cited

"A Timeline of AIDS." A Timeline of AIDS. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.


Gallant, Joel E. 100 Questions & Answers about HIV and AIDS. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2009. Print.


"History of HIV & AIDS in the U.S.A." HIV and AIDS Information and Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.


Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Viking, 1953. Print.


"Science Museum. Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine." The Fault of Others: Exiles, Scapegoats and the Human Face of Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.


"Science Museum. Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine."'Patient Zero' N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.