Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The 90s: AIDS, a Straight Issue Too

In the 90s AIDS began to be seen as an issue that affected more than just the gay population. In 1991 basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson announced his positive HIV status (acquired through heterosex). The following year, tennis player Arthur Ashe announced that he had devloped HIV from a 1983 blood transfusion; he died within a year of this announcement. In 1995 AIDS had become the leading cause of death for American between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four and by the end of the decade, 33 milion people were living with HIV/AIDS around the world. This caused enormous pressure on the government to speed up its drug testing and approval processes. Because of the organization's understanding of the medical issues surrounding AIDS, ACT UP was invited to sit on many f the medical committees making decisions about AIDS research. However, many members died of the disease and with the coming election of Bill Clinton interest and passion in ACT UP died off.

In 1994 MTV's third season of the Real World presented a gay, teenage Cuban immigrant who was diagnosed with HIV while in high school. This man, Pedro Zamora (pictured below), had become an AIDS educator and joined The Real World in an attempt to spread knowledge of the disease. During the season Zamora taught his housemates about AIDS and what it was like to live with the disease. He also fell in love with fellow AIDS educator Sean Sasser while filming the show. Unfortunately Zamora died the day after the final episode premiered. President Bill Clinton would note that Zamora "enriched and enlightened our nation. He taught all of us that AIDS is a disease with a human face and one that affects every American, indeed, every citizen of the world."

LGBTQ Minorities
The 90s was the first time the LGBTQ community saw inclusion of racial and ethnic groups. While such groups as the National Coalition of Black Gays (later renamed the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays) had been started in the 80s, the groups felt alienated by the rest of the LGBTQ community. This was caused not only by the white-dominated representation of homosexuality, but also racist attitudes among gays and lesbians. In the 90s however LGBTQ groups geared towards specific races and interests sprung up, including gay and lesbian organizations for Latinos/as, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, lawyers, runners, academics, parents, sailors, police, wrestlers, architects, pet owners, computer hackers.This formation of groups was facilitated by the influence of the internet and its ability for mass communication.

Additional/Relevant Reading:
Gay America: Struggle for Equality -- Linas Alsenas, pg. 131-133
Racism in Gay America --
The History of HIV and AIDS in America --

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