Coronavirus Compared to HIV
New coronavirus cases have reached 2,857,054 infections in the United States over the last two months while an estimated 36,400 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in all of 2018. Obviously the SARS-CoV-2 virus is many times more infectious than the HIV virus and is much more easily transmitted from person to person, however if we compare coronavirus to the HIV pandemic (or epidemic) of the 80s and 2000's, we can see that there are some similarities and some very big differences. One simularity is that SARS-CoV-2 can target, infect and destroy similar cells as HIV such as the T-lymphocytes cells whose main function is to protect the body from harmful invaders. Another similarity is lymphopenia, which suppresses the immune system in coroavirus infected people in a similar way it does in people with AIDS. Another striking similarity is pneumonia. In 1981 the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta noticed that there were strange cases of a pneumonia-like illness popping up in the Los Angeles area which later turned out to be a symptom of AIDs caused by HIV infection.
Differences in Morality
One of the most frightening aspects of the Coronavirus's effect on mortality the United States when compared with HIV/AIDS is that the entire HIV epidemic in the United States killed an estimated 700,000 people, but it took 39 years to do so. Yet, as of July 3rd 2020, just 4 months since the virus reached the shores of America, over 131,666 Americans have died from SARS-CoV-2 infections. The hardest hit American state has been New York with 32,172 deaths since the first recorded deaths on March 14th, 2020.
Differences in Perception
The AIDS crisis for all intents and purposes started slowly and created very little panic at first. This was mostly due to the fact that it was considered to be a disease that only gay men and intravenous drug addicts contracted. The fact that this mysterious illness only seemed to affect people on the margins of society, meant that the ordinary person had nothing to fear, as long as it was only "them" who got AIDS. Indeed, during the early 1980's the AIDS epidemic was known as the "gay plague". In 2018 the highest rate of HIV infections according to race and ethnicity was for blacks/African Americans at 45.4 HIV infections per 100,000 population, followed by Hispanic/Latinos at 22.4 per 100,000 population and persons of multiple races at 19.3 per 100,000.
If we compare reactions to HIV at that time and the Coronavirus at present, it is clear that there has been a massive worldwide response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic compared to the worldwide reaction to AIDS in the '80s, even though early research into Coronavirus also shows that the virus seems to be affecting poor and marginalized populations along the lines of race and income. For example black people are 4 times more likely to die from a SARS-CoV-2 infection than white people. A large proportion of those deaths can be attributed to pre-existing differences in a communities wealth, health, education, socio-economic status among ethnic groups, however some of this is still somewhat of a mystery. For example, even taking all the mentioned factors above into consideration, a black person is still twice as likely to die of a Coronvirus infection as a white person.
It is safe to say that it is still early days yet and much more research is needed. However in conclusion it could be said that the difference between the Coronavirus pandemic and the AIDS epidemic with regards to public perception, is that during the current pandemic/epidemic it is not widely believed that the virus only affects "them", mainly because of the large difference in the way the Coronavirus is transmitted.
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