When its symptoms first surfaced in 1981, HIV/AIDS was deemed the “gay plague.” At the time, with little treatment for the disease, HIV/AIDS was widely visible, its effects manifested clearly, and the huge subsets of the San Francisco community were devastated sent the city into crisis mode. With the immediate danger that the disease presented, social activism was in full force. Since then though, with time, and the advent of more effective drug regimens, the disease is no longer a death sentence and its effects are not nearly as visible. Unfortunately, these new techniques have negated the urgency that once characterized the fight against the disease. The epidemic continues to claim the lives of nearly 20,000 people each year in America — hundreds in the Bay Area. Even in San Francisco, possibly the world’s largest center for HIV/AIDS outreach and awareness, the prevalence rate continues to rise. It is clear that the disease and its effects have evolved over the past 30 years, and as a result, activist efforts against it are constantly changing as well. This makes San Francisco an important city in which to examine the widespread effects of HIV/AIDS.
This Alternative Spring Break Trip will provide participants with a way to critically engage with the current realities of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In particular, our trip will address the constantly changing realities of HIV/AIDS issues. We will look at the ways in which local communities, along with broader social and medical advances, have evolved in their approach towards the epidemic with a specific focus on the city of San Francisco and its unique role. During Winter Quarter, we will reflect upon the issue of HIV/AIDS from as many different perspectives as possible: scientific, anthropological, historical and, as importantly, personal. We will largely focus on understanding the process of being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the stigma associated with the disease, and the discrimination that HIV+ individuals face in their quest for support and health care. Our goal is to develop a strong, holistic understanding of this pervasive disease. On our trip, we will work with several HIV/AIDS community organizations and leaders emphasizing advocacy, outreach, prevention, and support for HIV+ individuals. We will take an active role in helping these organizations spread awareness, and along the way, have the opportunity to gain the perspective of a number of diverse communities most strongly affected by this influential disease. We welcome all participants, regardless of their prior experiences with HIV/AIDS. However, we want every participant to embark on the trip with a motivation to study the issue.