This is our first text where we encounter HIV/AIDS as the subject of contagion in our course. Event though I am sure we all know what HIV/AIDS is and what the distinction between the two terms are, here is a short video reminder nonetheless.
What can we say about the symbolic role of the disease in Angels in America? How can we relate the fact that the main symptom of AIDS is our body’s inability to protect itself from external threats, just like some of the characters were unable to protect themselves from the harm caused by loved ones (think Harper) or the society?
Interestingly, AIDS has been casually called the ‘gay plague’ during the initial outbreak. When we have been discussing devastating diseases thus far, part of the horror was their indiscriminate nature. Yet the HIV/AIDS epidemic at the beginning of the ’80s has demonstrated just how ugly society’s response can be when only a subset of the population is at risk, especially minorities that are already discriminated against. Here is a short video of the early AIDS news coverage, or the “GRID,” gay-related immune deficiency, as it was first called.
What happens when ‘the plague’ suddenly started choosing it’s victims? When it seemingly starts targeting what could perhaps be called the most hated minority of the time? When the disease comes alive with a taste for certain humans?
Finally, what happens when the doctors refuse to test the blood that they know may be infected with a deadly virus for which there is no cure, simply because it might damage revenue and give the blood to haemophiliacs? To quote And the Band Played On, a great book on the epidemic: “when the doctors start acting like businessmen, who do the people turn to for doctors?” In all the books we read so far, the doctors were mostly portrayed as positive characters. What happens when we can’t rely even on the ones that are supposed to save us? Who were the respective characters in Angels in America relying on in the play?