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I really enjoyed reading about Damon Tweedy’s perspective on HIV as both a doctor and a black man. One important aspect of HIV that the author brings up is that a diagnosis of HIV is perceived as either as a lapse in judgement or a lack of morality; this is demonstrated through George’s wife’s reaction to finding out about her husband’s diagnosis. In one of my other medical anthropology classes at UNC, we have discussed the concept of an illness career, which is defined as “the culturally-influenced path that individuals move along in association with an illness”.
Tweedy also managed to incorporate how the environment he grew up in conditioned him to think that being gay is one of the worst things someone could be. It was refreshing that Tweedy did not try to pass himself off in his book as morally better than the other doctors by recounting aspects of his childhood and even his adulthood where he heard other people around him using gay slurs or saying they would “beat the gay” out of their son ever came out. As a result, this leads to so many black people in his community not coming out as gay, which as a white woman, is something I have never really thought about it. I think it is easy yet dangerous to think that because it is 2020 and we live in a much more socially progressive society, everything is socially acceptable by all groups of people.
Another dangerous misconception that is rather common is that because HIV has become treatable, people who are on HAART will always live completely normal lives, unaffected by HIV. This misconception is cleared up when Tweedy mentions one of his patients, Monica, who ends up developing lung cancer from her HIV. Also, while it is rare, there are people who are resistant to HIV drugs; it is so important to remember that we have not yet found the cure for HIV.