The Rhetoric of AIDS in Education.

Ottenritter Nan Barnett

“Does AIDS matter to people who are not homosexual men in Los Angeles?” That is my first working question. The other is, “Does AIDS matter to people who do not live in West Africa?” Elizabeth Pizani pointed out in her TED talk that 68% of AIDS cases are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that a relatively large percentage of homosexual men in Los Angeles have AIDS. In reading the material produced by Ottenritter, Nan, and Barnett, one perceives an overall feeling of ambivalence to the issue of AIDS among college students. There is also a disproportionately low incidence of testing being provided, or utilized at the universities; including the urban universities and colleges which host the most at-risk segment of the indigenous population, according to the reading. Even using the term “issue” suggests a clinical, or objective view of the deadly disease. Perhaps it is the separation created in the media, creating sort of an “us and them” perspective among American students of college age. One cannot be expected to be completely mindful of an issue that is conveyed in the media as being part of another continent or culture. Or, one could understandably lack initiative if they do not have first-hand exposure to the disease, I.e. A loved-one battles the disease and the politics of the disease.

Along the same lines, it is easy to see how one could forget there are people who feel those who contract the disease somehow deserve it, and it would be hasty to ascribe that frame of mind only to old people. Although huge strides have been made in the treatments available to those who have AIDS, (via massive, important long-term attention,) the disease still lies at the confluence of two particularly resilient forms of bigotry. How should educators go about informing students without creating crusaders? If the specter of AIDS overwhelmingly inhabits members of one race or sexual preference, an unproductive atmosphere of “Saviorism” may arise. But the statistics of the disease must not be manipulated to prevent a potentially distasteful social attitude. In reading the reports of Ottenritter et al, one ascertains the value in education as it concerns safe sex. the study also points out the inverse correlation between drug use and AIDS.

Education cannot be forced, and facts are of greater value than manipulated information depicting AIDS as an equal opportunity disease, which it is not. But ubiquity in education and forms of AIDS education appears to be beneficial.

Gary Musisko


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