AIDS and Society: The Growing Concern
Over the past centuries, the field of sociology has primarily focused on looking into various problems faced by different societies not just to understand more about this. More importantly, the study of sociology is to be able to provide the needed knowledge in order to find a solution for what has been considered as a social problem.
While there are some social problems that are isolated and merely experienced by certain societies, there are some issues and concerns that have greatly affected societies found all over the world. The AIDS epidemic is one such problem.
The fact that, to this day, there has yet to be an effective treatment that would successfully treat this disease has not just caused the number of individuals being infected to increase. It has also greatly affected how other members within a particular society relate and associate with individuals infected with AIDS.
This paper will discuss the different factors that have qualified the AIDS epidemic to become a social problem. The paper would also provide relevant information regarding the background of AIDS as a disease and the various ways on how the AIDS epidemic has influenced society in general.
The AIDS Epidemic
In order to fully understand why the AIDS epidemic is considered as a social problem, information regarding the disease must first be established.
The AIDS epidemic was the primary area of discussion in the United Nations Security Council in January 2000. The huge priority with regards to the AIDS epidemic was in part to the alarming statistics the council received the year before.
By 1999 alone, about 34 million individuals living all over the world have contracted the AIDS virus with another 18.8 million of these individuals dying from the disease in the same year.
The statistics have also shown that while the AIDS epidemic is most prevalent in Africa, the United States has been ranked as the number one country in the Western world with the highest number of individuals infected and succumbing to the AIDS virus (Young, Schvaneveldt, Lindauer & Schvaneveldt 2001).
AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a virus which, as the name suggests, attacks the immune system of the human body. While the virus itself is not fatal to human beings, it is the fact that the immune system of an individual who has contracted AIDS is no longer able to ward off infections and other diseases brought about by bacteria and other kinds of virus that causes the death of an individual afflicted with the AIDS virus.
The virus has been traced to originate from Africa. It is believed that the virus, which thrives in the bodies of monkeys have been able to mutate and once entered into the human body, begins to damage the immune system (Langone 1991).
AIDS and Its Impact to Society
For an issue to be considered as a social problem, the problem must be seen as one that poses a severe and grave threat towards the members of a particular society (Drass, Gregware & Musheno 1997). There is no doubt that the AIDS epidemic has now been recognized as a social problem that continues to grow to this day.
Once believed to be a disease that only infected homosexuals engaging in sexual intercourse with members of the same sex (Langone 1991), recent studies have made societies all over the world view the AIDS epidemic in a different light.
Apart from the fact that there are now individuals being inflicted with the AIDS virus as a result of unprotected sexual intercourse involving partners from the opposite sex, the AIDS virus has also been known to also inflict children.
In the report provided to the United Nations Security Council in the year 2000, out of the 34.3 million individuals all over the world who have been infected with the AIDS virus, 1.3 million of these were children below the age of 15 years (Altman 1995; Young, Schvaneveldt, Lindauer & Schvaneveldt 2001).
The general perception that the AIDS virus is a major social problem has greatly influenced other parts of society, primarily when it comes to equality and advocacy. How the general public perceives a particular social problem would greatly affect the association and relations that they would eventually have to those that they perceive to be the instigators of the problem.
In the case with the AIDS epidemic, individuals who have been discovered to carry the disease experience a number of various incidences for racism and prejudice to arise.
The most profound example of this can be seen during case proceedings in litigation hearings conducted in the court houses of the United States.
Studies with regards to the manner as to how legal decision making in the United State court houses are carried have determined that social influences, particularly those involving cultural dynamics and social dynamics have greatly influenced the outcomes of various court cases which involves at least one individual who has been diagnosed to be infected with the AIDS virus (Drass, Gregware & Musheno 1997).
One particular social dynamics that play a crucial role in decision making process done in court houses in the United States is social status. Studies have shown that individuals that have a higher social status ranking would be likely to experience the ruling of a court proceeding to be in their favor as opposed to those who have been considered to have a low social status.
Individuals who have been infected with the AIDS virus have long been regarded as individuals with a low social status ranking primarily due to the fact that those who surround them view them as carriers of something that would definitely cause adverse harm to the individuals living with them.
In effect, individuals who have been infected with the AIDS virus have been viewed within the same ranking just as how members of a particular society would view and individual indicted for committing a heinous crime (Drass, Gregware & Musheno 1997).
The ideologies and beliefs upheld by a particular society is another dynamics that greatly influence legal proceedings involving an individual who has been inflicted by the AIDS virus. The culture upheld by a particular society is based on the sharing of common beliefs, traditions and ideologies among each other.
Discrimination based on the culture within a particular society normally occurs based on the gender, sexuality and ethnic background of an individual. Recently, the status of an individual as to whether or not he or she is inflicted with the AIDS virus has also been included in the list.
In fact, the culture within a society in the manner as to how they perceive individuals infected with the AIDS virus not only causes decisions made during court proceedings to rule against the individual who has been inflicted with the AIDS virus.
An individual who has been diagnosed to be infected with the AIDS virus are often subjected to alienation, branding and other forms of oppression from other members within a particular society (Altman 1995; Drass, Gregware & Musheno 1997).