Does stigma during the COVID-19 pandemic parallel the AIDS epidemic in the United States?
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The COVID-19 pandemic and the AIDS epidemic in the United States have taken a burden on the population. Both are diseases that are fatal if the disease is not taken care of. In the 1980s, the fear of the uncertainty surrounding AIDS, and the unknown pathogen at the time HIV, caused panic. The one aspect that people knew about AIDS was that the epidemic was predominantly affecting homosexual men. Hence, people who were diagnosed as HIV positive were also stigmatized as homosexuals by members of society. With the advancement of antiretroviral therapies in the 1990s, having HIV became a chronic disease since it was manageable and did not lead to death. Nowadays, people who are HIV positive can lead long lives with the use of the antiretroviral therapies. However, the stigma of having HIV is still present. Extensive research has been conducted in order to study the causes of HIV-related stigma and minimize the stigma. The effects of HIV-related stigma affect those who are HIV positive and cause some patients to discontinue care—predisposing to having AIDS. The people who face HIV-related stigma are men who have sex with men (MSM) and other high-risk populations such as intravenous drug users or sex workers. The prevalence of HIV has affected minority populations such as African Americans, and in the early 2000s the number of new cases of HIV has increasingly been coming from the Southeastern United States, also known as the Bible Belt. There has been more HIV-related stigma in this region of the United States as evident by some of the prejudiced views of health care workers in this region who may blame the actions of people for their positive HIV serostatus. The laws in 37 of the states in the United States criminalize the nondisclosure of HIV. Experts theorize that these laws increase the stigma of having HIV rather than actually decrease rates of transmission, as the laws were intended to do. The United States has been one of the worst affected nations with the COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2 have been monumental with government guidelines suggesting social distancing, as SARSCoV-2 is airborne and very contagious. The stigma related to COVID-19 has been targeted at groups of people that are believed to be sources of spread. Asian Americans have been subject to the targeting of people blaming them for the spread of SARS-CoV-2 due to language such as the “Chinese Virus” that propagates stigma and leads towards harassment of Asian Americans. This review of the literature attempts to address whether there were similarities in the HIV-related stigma in the United States to the current day stigma experienced during COVID-19.