The Truth Of Aids Stigma Through The Lens Of Two Biomedical Professionals ' Memories Of The Aids Epidemic

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The early days of the AIDS epidemic challenged the cartesian nature of biomedical culture. With its emphasis on empiricism, the superior biomedical mind could normally make sense of the inferior patient’s bodily concerns. In the early 80s, though, the scientific method seemed to be failing with AIDS, with no clear biological etiologic agent being identified, and rumors circulated. As the biomedical mind struggled to define and categorize AIDS, the moralistic nature of medical authority revealed itself. Instead of pathology residing in the biology of a patient, it appeared to transcend the patient’s biology and reveal deviant sexual behavior. Instead of being able to treat or study the disease, the diseased bodies were quarantined. Even when it was understood that AIDS had a viral cause, biomedicine’s quarantining practices became subtler, but still perpetuated the social stigma of AIDS patients. In this essay, I examine the nature of AIDS stigma through the lens of two biomedical professionals’ memories of the first decade of the epidemic. One such professional is Dr. M. Robert Hill, M.D. He is a retired internist of 68 years, who used to work at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in Town and Country, Missouri, and treated several AIDS patients before antiretroviral therapy was discovered. The other ethnographic source is Dr. Daniel Hanson, a current Immunology lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis, who was completing his second postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at

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