Three exhibitions at the University of Connecticut explore the social and political history of HIV/AIDS and mark 35 years since the first cases were diagnosed.
Associate professor-in-residence, Dr. Thomas Lawrence Long, said the idea came to him while teaching a course on AIDS and culture.
"One of the things that struck me," he said, "was that most of our undergraduates have never lived in a world without AIDS. Many of them were completely unaware of the struggles that HIV-infected people and their families encountered in the 1980s." Long was a recent guest on WNPR’s Where We Live.
The UConn exhibitions reflect changes over time, as a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS went from being a death sentence, to a chronic disease which could be managed. Visitors to the Dodd Research Center can see some of the first materials and publications on safe sex, as well as images created in response to HIV/AIDS by grassroots organizations.
"Early in the HIV epidemic, it was alternative presses and alternative publishers that published some of the first novels and plays related to HIV/AIDS," Long said. "When they go to the Benton Museum, they’re going to see a very fine exhibit directly related to art, graphics, images during the HIV/AIDS epidemic’s worst years. Finally, in the School of Nursing -- just opened this week -- people will see the National Library of Medicine’s exhibit as well as an exhibit case I’ve prepared of artifacts related to nursing and nursing care."
A total of 11.7 million people died worldwide from HIV/AIDS before the introduction of protease inhibitors and other anti-retroviral medications, according to a 1998 World Health Organization report.
Long said that today, there are many different AIDS epidemics depending on your socioeconomic position, with black and Latino men and transgender women disproportionately affected.