When COVID first hit, it reminded me of the HIV-AIDS hysteria in the early 1990s and the poverty crisis experienced in some parts of Africa in the early 1980s. Last year, as I watched YouTube videos and listened to news reports, distinctions between these three events started to emerge. Generally, the fear and uncertainty of these events are what binds them and as with most things, time (the natural healer of all things) has a way of soothing things and helping us move on. So, time is what I have come to use to deal with most major issues, and now COVID.
I remember that within a short time of HIV-AIDS dominating the news, fears were eased as it was talked about as a gay issue. If you engaged in homosexual sexual conduct, then you might contract HIV and/or AIDS and if you didn’t you probably were not going to get it. Then on November 8, 1991, NBA player Majic Johnson held a press conference and announced he contracted HIV, but not AIDS. Magic stated, something to the effect, that he contracted HIV from attending sex parties and having unprotected sex with numerous sex partners in cities across America. This press conference kind of erased the notion that only gay people could get HIV-AIDS and ushered in the new reality that anyone who had unprotected sex can get it. But the fear was muted with ad campaigns telling people to use condoms. By the time reports of other famous people dying from HIV-AIDS, such as Arthur Ashe, Rock Hudson, Easy-E, and Robert Reed was disclosed the effect wasn’t the same because we had gotten to the place of “just use a condom and you will not get it”. So, America and the world went back to normalcy that is so desired, hoped for, and wanted with COVID.
Although early reports indicated that COVID affected seniors more than other groups of people, the daily reports disclosed that there was no limit to the people and places where you could get COVID. There were daily reports that large numbers of people everywhere in the world were dying, and there was no way to gauge when you or people you care about might get COVID. The lockdowns and shutdowns also made COVID different from the other health scares because this resulted in a limited amount of medical treatment being provided to those in need of such services. This was a major difference between HIV-AIDS and the poverty crisis because it was imperative that people got medical treatment as quickly as possible.
When there was a report that someone died from HIV-AIDS or poverty condition, it seemed that most people felt sympathy and/or empathy for the person. Unfortunately, COVID has torn America further apart because it has become a divisive issue that has led to employees being harmed or killed for asking a person to wear a mask, getting the vaccine, and not getting the vaccine. The divisiveness of COVID has also become a political tool for our country’s number one group of shameless people, the politicians. Too many of them have no problem using COVID as a political tool to grow and strengthen their political base.
During this COVID crisis, I often think about the song “We are the World” which was released in 1985 to bring awareness and support to the poverty crisis in parts of Africa. I remember that whenever that song came on the radio, I turned up the volume and whenever the video came on, I watched to completion. I guess it was the humanity in me and seeing the humanity on the faces of artists who participated in the creation of the song. I think America needs a “we are the world” moment. Even though one of the writers of “We are the World,” Michael Jackson has passed on to another life, some of the writers, singers, composers, and arrangers are still alive. I wish they would make a song to try to bring the normalcy of the early 1990s back to America.