Week 12: 5B

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    I found “5B” to be one of the most thoughtful and yet heartbreak accounts of epidemics within the United States. Comparing it to a “Gay cancer” is beyond derogatory and group the LGBT+ community as being disease ridden. In my Gender & Sexuality course, we read an article where American Jews were being blamed for the emergence of transgender peoples, in which they were labeled as being worse than AIDS (which was stated by Trump’s chief journalist. The designation of such a disease or an orientation to one group is what generates horrible stigmas like the one’s we have viewed in our readings. It also is similar to our President using the terminology of a “Chinese Virus”. The language used in this film is not to admonish people but rather to relay the public response to AIDS accurately, which a documentary utilizes strongly. What makes the information more tangible, is the usage of doctors and nurses who identify as homosexual and heterosexual and giving their accounts of AIDS. It is also imperative to note the shift in the views of hospital staff, such as the woman who did an interview alongside her husband and berated the way AIDS patients were being treated. If respect cannot flow through the most important institution for these individuals it definitely does not gain a positive view in the lives of others.

    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.


    Both of you made a lot of good points. Based off of your discussion of stigmatization surrounding disease, I think it’s terrible that certain people were viewed as being more ‘deserving’ of catching a contagion like HIV/AIDS than others. The way that the nurse in 5B who caught AIDS was treated with more respect and sympathy that countless young people, who were looked down upon with hatred and disgust, is just horrifying. Members of the LGBTQ community with HIV not only suffered physically, but also mentally and emotionally from their rejection and isolation. It takes away from the randomness that accompanies times of plague. COVID-19 could have conceivably originated from anywhere; spreading blame to those who probably wanted a pandemic to start in their homes less than anyone else is not helpful or even justifiable.

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