In June of 1981 the Center for Disease Control reported the first case of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, otherwise known as AIDS. The HIV and AIDS epidemic touches the lives of people across the globe. In America alone, AIDS accounts for taking the lives of half a million people since its arrival 30 years ago. AVERT.org states that 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV, the disease the causes AIDS, and 1 in 5 of these individuals do not know they have the virus. Consequently, HIV and AIDS have made an astonishing impact on American society. This event continues to socially affect minorities, homosexuals, and impoverished communities reflecting the latent function of two theoretical social perspectives prevalent in American society.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic dominates various communities, taking a large toll on those of a particular lifestyle, race, gender, subculture, and social class. America’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy of 2009 admits that “not every person or group has an equal chance of becoming infected with HIV” (“avert.org”, 2011). Although the HIV virus does not discriminate on its own, there are certain factors in place that cause the virus to rule among certain communities. This includes, homosexuals, African Americans, Hispanics, and low income populations. “2010 showed that in America’s poorest urban neighborhoods, HIV prevalence was … more than four times the national average” (“avert.org”, 2011). Furthermore, “Black Americans account for 40% of all recorded AIDS related deaths” and “the rate of HIV diagnosis among men who have sex with men is more than 44 times that of other men” (“avert.org”, 2011). However, these statistics can be difficult to digest considering that HIV is only transmitted two ways, sexual transmission and blood contamination. Many Americans, including adults and teenagers, participate in sexual activities. Thus, how are these groups so widely affected by the epidemic?
There are various social factors in place to explain away the prevalence of this deadly virus among minorities, homosexuals, and poverty stricken areas. According to AVERT.org -a nonprofit organization committed to HIV and AIDS prevention by providing education, treatment, and care- HIV rates among the poor and minorities attributes to high a prevalence of HIV in the region, imprisonment, drug abuse, and diminutive contact with healthcare facilities. Thus, social class directly affects ones percentage of coming in contact with the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, lifestyle, or sexual preferences has an impact on the HIV epidemic as well, as “1 in 5 men who have sex with men in 21 cities surveyed has HIV” (“avert.org”, 2011).
The functionalist perspective addresses the functions of society, both the function and the dysfunction prevalent in America. The AIDS epidemic, however, acts as a dysfunction. In the same relationship that the upper class require a lower class to maintain their social status, so does the functioning of a society need dysfunction to maintain its current role in American culture. This apparent inequality and large disparity with AIDS prevalence in low income, homosexual communities, and minority groups, reflects the latent function of the American social institution. This latent role which the AIDS epidemic plays on society is the unconscious and unintended protagonist with a hidden agenda. This functionalist theory stirs increased conflict with the homosexual lifestyle and creates stigma and discrimination among homosexuals and individuals living with HIV and AIDS.
Impoverished communities face many obstacles and challenges. This includes economic and social instabilities and now the minorities, and Whites alike, living in these low income areas are met with an HIV and AIDS epidemic. Ironically, the community facing the most challenges and the largest disparities is met with yet another obstacle to overcome. Not only does education of AIDS and HIV awareness need to be provided to these communities, they require programs that provide intravenous drug users with clean needles, condom distribution, and heavy HIV testing in these highly effected areas. With HIV and AIDS on the rise, it addresses the need for the availability of healthcare and healthcare facilities. Although these actions have not been taken and introduced into these communities, society continues to show progress on a national level. There is a current National HIV/AIDS Strategy implemented into public policy in 2009 and World AIDS day that stimulates awareness to reduce the spread of the virus. Sexual education courses include HIV/AIDS information and prevention along with other sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, the removal and amendment of laws pertaining to the HIV status of foreigners and immigrants who enter the country, may now vacation, visit, or become legal citizens. Whereas before these individuals were denied entrance.
Stigma and discrimination continues to be prevalent among those infect with HIV and AIDS. These individuals are looked down upon as many assume they are homosexual. Others are discriminated due to lack of knowledge or education about the transmission of the disease. This inequality and discrimination reflects W.E.B Dubois study on the conflict perspective. The American society is utilizing the spread HIV and AIDS as a social conflict among minorities, homosexuals, and low income citizens to that of the government officials, public policy, and health care providers. Without adequate health insurance those with the virus may not receive medication needed to maintain their health. Furthermore, additional policies must be put in place to educate others about spreading and transmitting the disease, to combat discrimination and stimulate awareness. Although some sexual education courses provide information about AIDS and HIV awareness and prevention, most promote abstinence as a means of prevention which is proven to be ineffective. Thus, the structural function of American society maintains large disparities between the rich and poor now includes the healthy and the sick.
With obvious and apparent disparities in American social system, AIDS and HIV greatly affect gay and bisexual men, Black Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and low income communities. The structural function and the conflict perspective theory seen in the HIV/AIDS epidemic display the latent acts of America’s dysfunction including social dynamics and social structure. AIDS is alive and well thirty years later, yet within this time frame America has again found a way to protect the privileged and prosperous all the while causing destruction and damage to the poor and repressed. Sociologist and theorist Karl Marx predicts the social and political super structure will one day collapse when the social dynamics and disparities between the rich and poor become strongly evident and transparent. However, as America dawns on a new era and move further into the century, the day has not yet approached when social change occurs and social inequality becomes the base of social equality in American society.