AIDS Discrimination Crisis (1980s)

Fear increase causes Gay men to be used as scapegoats

AIDS epidemic of the 1980s

The United States was the first country to recognize the new illness of AIDS, which was common among a group of gay men in 1981. Today, it is believed that the origin of this illness is Africa. This began in California and New York when a small group of men had said to be diagnosed with a rare form of cancer or pneumonia. The cancer was usually found in men of Jewish heritage and African men. The pneumonia was generally found in individuals with serious immune system problems. The only characteristic that connected these two illnesses was that the patients were all gay. This illness began to spread among the gay community. Many people referred to it as "Gay Cancer" or "Gay- related immune deficiency." The official term "AIDS" was established in September, 1982. At this particular time, gay men were not completely accepted by society. An associate professor of psychiatry said " This kind of scapegoating of a distinctive minority is common whenever a majority feels threatened, frustrated and helpless" (Isay). Because gay men were the minority, they were easily depicted as the cause of AIDS.

Other patients that were not gay began to be diagnosed with this illness. This was when scientists discovered that AIDS could also be spread through blood transfusions, intravenous drug use, and sexual contact with an AIDS or HIV patient. "Gay men were frequently singled out for abuse as they were seen as responsible for the AIDS epidemic" ("HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination:Gay Men"). This quote shows us that gay men were blamed for causing AIDS. Because of this, they were also the targets for many ad campaigns. "President Reagan refused to advocate safer sex and condom use, choosing instead to press for a ban on HIV-positive immigrants entering the country, then later sexual abstinence as the keys to preventing the epidemic" ("History of HIV & AIDS in the U.S.A"). This shows us that President Reagan was an important contributor to blaming a group of people and isolating them from the rest instead of helping them by giving them the treatment they needed.
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  • Many people died in the AIDS epidemic just like in The Crucible.
  • By 1988, over 45,000 AIDS patients died

The Crucible in the AIDS Epidemic of the 1980s

Driven by Fear

Fear is something that drives us to do unexplainable things. We tend to avoid the evidence presented which causes us to react in a way that doesn't make sense. In the AIDS epidemic, people were afraid of being infected. They started targeting gay men because they were the ones that "caused the illness. " President Reagan had gay men be excluded from the country instead of helping them by trying to find some sort of cure or stop it from spreading. In The Crucible, Abigail Williams spread the fear of witchcraft. She caused everyone to fear a large group of people which caused many lives. During the AIDS epidemic, people were taught to fear homosexuals because they were spreading AIDS. Abigail told the girls "Let either of you breath a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you..." (Miller pg. 1034). At this point, Abigail began to be afraid of the girls telling the truth about what really happened so she threatened them to not say anything. This contributes to The Crucible's idea as to how people react in times of fear. People start to act in unexplainable ways that can be harmful to others.

When Putman was trying to convince Parris to tell everyone what was happening in his household, Parris refused. He said "We cannot leap to witchcraft. They will hawl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house" (Miller pg. 1032). This shows how afraid and unwelcoming people were towards witchcraft, just like people were afraid of AIDS. Later in The Crucible, Hale speaks to Tituba. He asked her " When the Devil comes to you does he ever come with another person?" (Miller pg. 1047). The authority figures in this novel try to make people blame others. By blaming others, they take the blame off of themselves. Many people in The Crucible did this like Abigail and Tituba. In the AIDS epidemic, people were blaming gay men just like people were being blamed in The Crucible.

Works Cited

Geiling, Natasha. "The Confusing and At-Times Counterproductive 1980s Response to the AIDS Epidemic." Smithsonian. N.p., 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.

"History of HIV & AIDS in the U.S.A." AVERTing HIV and AIDS, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

Isay, Richard A. "Scapegoating of Gay Men Leaves Its Mark." Los Angeles Times: 20 July 1987. Web. 07 Dec. 2014.


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

National AIDS Trust.HIV/AIDS STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION: GAY MEN. Feb. 2003. Web. 7 Dec. 2014. PDF File.