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Shattered Dreams?An Oral History of the South African AIDS Epidemic$
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Gerald M. Oppenheimer and Ronald Bayer

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195307306

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195307306.001.0001

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Facing AIDS: Denial, Indifference, and Fear

Facing AIDS: Denial, Indifference, and Fear

(p.43) 2 Facing AIDS: Denial, Indifference, and Fear
Shattered Dreams?

Gerald M. Oppenheimer

Ronald Bayer

Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with the epidemic takeoff of HIV infection in the Black population in the 1990s, a period marked by the transition from Apartheid to a new democratic South Africa and the presidency of Nelson Mandela. Doctors and nurses recall their first cases, the suffering they witnessed, and the deaths they attended. The chapter details the response of medical institutions to the mounting tide of AIDS. As black, white, and Indian doctors and nurses became increasingly alarmed by, but committed to, the care of desperately sick people with HIV, they encountered indifference, if not outright resistance, from colleagues and administrators. Many with clinical responsibilities rejected AIDS patients, being both fearful of infection and wrongly believing that therapeutic measures were useless.

Keywords:   HIV infection, AIDS epidemic, epidemic takeoff, South Africa, history, stigma, fear of contagion, institutional indifference, clinical nihilism

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