Date of Award


First Advisor

Erin McMullin

Second Advisor

Sarah Snyder


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is not like other viruses. It has certain biological adaptations which make it more dangerous and difficult to treat, but it also carries a powerful stigma which compounds its deadliness. In 40 years, it’s killed tens of millions of people, many of whom were abandoned by their families due to shame. Anyone can get HIV, regardless of sexuality or socioeconomic status, but that wasn’t known in the early 1980s and is still not known among many today. The fact that the people who were hit the hardest and the first by the AIDS epidemic were gay men and intravenous drug users inevitably influenced the reluctance of the government and scientists across the country to exert a concerted effort in eradicating the virus until tens of thousands of people around the world had already died. The aim of this thesis is to examine the evolution of knowledge about HIV and how it can be treated, an evolution hampered by pervasive stigma, inadequate research funding, and a prioritization of profit over people.

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