Reply To: Week 12: 5B

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Everette Oxrider

I really appreciate your reflection! I found myself drawing similar ties to the AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 outbreak. In both cases, the reinforcement of stigmas (Trump’s crossing out of corona virus and replacement with “Chinese” and AIDS branding as the “gay disease”) by the language of our politicians is something I find appalling. Even the way politicians in the AIDS crisis indirectly (arguably directly) singled out gays via occupational discrimination (“have you ever been a hairdresser or a florist”) or the way insurance companies and even doctors refused to treat HIV/AIDS patients (ie. informed consent to test for the virus before treatment) disgusted me.

This, is when our discipline (both English and Anthropology) become ever-critical as we are responsible in unveiling the certain consequences of language usage — knowing that the way we talk about things reinforces the ways we think/and act. This lens allows us to think really critically on multiple layers of the disease experience — the language of our policy makers, the stories of those that are ill, etc.

5B revealed another similarity between COVID-19 and AIDS: the way patients are treated in regards to touch. I think about the anecdote of the one patient in the 5B ward who noted he hadn’t been touched in a whole year. I find the fear of touch to be paralleled in our current global climate on both the clinical and public level — (i.e nurses and health practitioners wearing spacesuit-esque protective gear, public wearing gloves and masks to grocery stores, etc).

This film stirred up a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about over the past week, things I find to be problematic: Politicizing a public health crisis, pointing fingers at certain groups, and the reinforcement of homophobia (AIDS) and racism (COVID-19) on a political level.