July 4, 2020
COVID-19 updates: lessons for COVID-19 from HIV and AIDS

From the article: "Ralph Kretzen, who died on 26 August 1982, and Pieter Daniël (Charles) Steyn, who died on 1 January 1983, were the first two people officially recognised as dying of AIDS in South Africa. In 1986, homophobia and stigma about HIV and AIDS still shaped public, medical and government responses. This was so ubiquitous that a provincial government blood donation service even put up posters instructing ‘moffies’ or ‘gays’ or people who had sex with “moffies” or “gays” not to give blood. (“Moffie” is a derogatory term used in South Africa for gay men.) This was despite evidence that people were dying of AIDS regardless of sexual orientation. Thirteen years later, in 1998, fear and stigma resulted in the brutal murder of Gugu Dlamini by a group of people from her neighbourhood. Dlamini was a South African AIDS activist determined to fight against the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV and AIDS. People experienced the effects of stigma from others. They were also affected by internal stigma that prevented them seeking treatment. In early March 2020, a shop assistant in my Cape Town neighbourhood relayed how people had run past her, shouting that the coronavirus had arrived, after a group of tourists sat down in an open-plan eating area near her shop. The tourists got up and left. But stigma had left a stain on all involved in the incident. As the spread of diseases has shown over the centuries – whether smallpox in the Cape Colony in the early 18th century and late 19th century, the global influenza epidemic of 1918 or COVID-19 today – the causative agents of illness do not care for our assumptions about our alleged superiority on the planet, nor do they discriminate. They also do not recognise the structures and symbols people use to try and shore up their fears and create a sense of security."