December 1 is AIDS Awareness Day — and the month of December also marks AIDS awareness. More than thirty years ago, there were early identifications of unusual cancers and pneumonias among gay men in Los Angeles and New York. At the time, I lived in Chicago. And, at the time, none of us quite knew what the subsequent decades would bring. In the United States, it brought new coalitions and new politics of health care, of identity politics and beyond, ACT UP, and AIDS service organizations. I can still remember when students in a course I devised with a colleague used aids as a search term — and regularly came back with audio-visual aids. The acronym — and its referent — have changed the world in more ways than one. As we mourn, and reflect, and work toward social justice, a few things to remember:
AIDS continues to disproportionately affect men and women of color in the United States. Blacks, for example, represent about 12% of the US population and 44% of new infections in 2010.
About 1 in 4 new infections in the US is in the age range of 13-24.
These basic statistics come from here.
And, of course, AIDS/HIV is directly relevant to higher education. Why? Well, note the above age range for new infections, to start. And then ask yourself:
1. Where is most of the research done on AIDS/HIV as a medical and health care crisis? By whom is it funded?
2. What courses are now available on college and university campuses teaching about AIDS/HIV in the US? Globally?
3. What policies have changed in higher education practice since the onslaught of HIV/AIDS?
Each of these is a question for all of us. South Africa has a plan for connecting higher education to AIDS/HIV. So does Ghana (click here). And the United States? Hmmm. Chicago data makes this even more crucial locally.