For a period of about five years during the mid to late eighties a phenomenon occurred. The use of euphemisms in obituaries. Causes of death were obscured as were the nature of relationships. As the majority of deceased were young men the obfuscating objective usually failed. Spelling out AIDS in bold type wouldn’t have made it any less obvious what had happened.
Predominantly this type of diversionary tactic was practised by the victims blood family. In the days when it was still considered mainly a homosexual illness shame outweighed the truth for too many people. Whether it was the cause of death or the sexuality that people were trying to hide is irrelevant. What mattered was that this attitude was merely a reflection of how society wanted to deal with the whole issued of AIDS.
Homosexuality, promiscuity and the decease were irrevocably linked in people’s minds. The popular press, politicians and preachers of social conservatism (which was just then getting a foothold in the public eye) latched onto the idea that this was some sort of retribution for the life style. Beyond the gay community there was little or no interest in finding a cure let alone talking about the manners in which the decease could be checked.
Even the first cases of heterosexuals contracting the AIDS were dismissed as being the result of deviant behaviour. Intravenous drug users and prostitutes are not about to garner the sympathy of the general public. It wasn’t until the first victims of tainted blood transfusion’s began appearing, and politicians realized there were political points to be made, that any action was taken to check the spread of the infection.
By the time the “innocent victim” stage was reached it was too late. AIDS had gained a significant foothold and was widespread enough to no longer be isolated and confined. The apathy, bigotry, and shame that had condemned it’s first victims, had come back to haunt society. If a concentrated effort had been made in the early stages of the decease to at least take preventative steps there is the possibility that the spread could have been controlled.