and Safer Sex
If there is a success story about the response of any community to the awareness of HIV as a health risk, it is probably the adult gay male community. Shilts (1987) in his book, And the Band Played On, documents the tentative and often slow response by the adult gay male community to the growing threat of the disease. The early response was tainted by a suspicious reaction to any public health information or initiative viewed as inspired by a White House under the Reagan administration viewed as hostile to gay interests. The feeling by many in the gay community was that the White House and most of the administration as well as legislative branch (and for that matter much of society) had not only abandoned interest in the gay community but became actively hostile as the media and others began to speak about the “gay plague” or use the term “GRID” (gay related infectious disease). The result was an unwillingness to react to what was a perceived growing public health crisis. This paralysis, founded on fear and suspicion of governmental agencies created a delay in the response of social communities to a medical condition. Even after HIV, the outbreak of SARS found the People's Republic of China unable or unwilling to handle the fundamental issues of dealing with a contagious disease.
The term plague is particularly an issue given that the term invokes an old Biblical term of what Moses inflicted on the Pharaoh of Egypt for refusing to change his behavior to what God had proscribed. In the 1980s, cities and states were expressing a more tolerant, if not encouraging, attitude towards homosexuals in society, going so far as to include “domestic partner unions” and removing many of the legal and other restrictions. However, such actions need to be counterbalanced against decisions by courts, like the Supreme Court in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986). This Supreme Court decision found that state laws that made private homosexual conduct between consenting adults illegal were legitimate expressions of social moral codes. The court reasoned that