5B Response

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    Hannah Whittington

    “5B” was a riveting and interesting film, but also terrifying. It is so frightening that during this pandemic a diagnosis was a death sentence, and it made me realize how lucky we are that people can and do recover from COVID-19. Something that stuck out to me in the film was the battle for the right to wear protective gear while caring for HIV/AIDS patients. Though I understand the value of human touch and being able to form a connection with a patient, I will admit that when this was first mentioned I did not realize how negatively this truly would have affected them. Pandemics are frightening: shouldn’t people be able to protect themselves as they please? When a disease is contagious through the air, such as COVID-19, I believe the answer is yes, they should absolutely protect themselves from becoming infected so they can care for more patients and stay healthy. But with HIV/AIDS, I now see that this was a form of homophobia and stigmatization rather than a necessary safety precaution. While accidents can happen, as shown through Mary Magee’s unfortunate diagnosis, the chances of being infected by a HIV/AIDS patient through caring for them is slim. As stated and made clear by the nurses on the 5B ward, such as Cliff Morrison, nursing and being able to care for people is a privilege that comes with risks, that they accept when they take the job. They remind people in the documentary that they took an oath to care for people no matter the circumstances, so that is what they must do. HIV cannot be spread through the air, so wearing masks around these patients is unnecessary and further stigmatizes and differentiates them from other patients. I found it so awful that some people, especially family members, felt that these people brought the disease upon themselves. I recall an interview clip with a member of the gay community who developed HIV, and in response to people asking why he had sex he responded “because that’s what people do.” Their lifestyle choices are not why this disease spread – it is just because that is what happens during a pandemic. If HIV/AIDS were more common in heterosexual people as well, I doubt people would be placing blame and guilting them as people did to the homosexual population. This is similar to how some people (including the president) are placing the blame on people of Asian ethnicities for COVID-19. People don’t make disease, so blaming it on them does not make sense.

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