Echoes of the AIDS Hysteria as We Battle Ebola

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Echoes of the AIDS Hysteria as We Battle Ebola

Exactly a decade ago this month I received an email flagged as urgent from Monrovia, Liberia. It was from Lee Johnson, then coordinator of  "Liberian Youths Against HIV/AIDS.”

"Presently, the HIV/AIDS scourge is deeply eating into the fabric of our society and there is little being done to bring this to a halt. Therefore, some of us youths have come together to be able to bring awareness to our fellow youths on the danger of HIV/AIDS and other STD’s. But, at present, we are not receiving much from the locals and that is why we have decided to get in contact with you," Johnson wrote.

Johnson wanted to know if the US knew how the HIV/AIDS epidemic was ravaging his city and countryside; and if the US knew how possibly could his distant cousins of the Diaspora-African Americans-and his queer allies-LGBTQ Americans-simply be silent and not act.

By 2012 the US is on record for contributing nearly $200 million devoted to stemming AIDS and malaria in Liberia. Only then did the county begin seeing a decline in the epidemics.

Since December 2013 Liberia, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea, cried out to the world community for help in fighting the deadliest outbreak of the Ebola epidemic to date. By this summer’s end the death toll per day from the virus in those West African countries was staggering to the point of disbelief - with a projected rate of 1,0000 new cases each week in two months according to the World Health Organization.

In September Shoana Solomon, a photographer and TV presenter, and her daughter excitedly arrived in the US from Monrovia just in time for Solomon’s nine year old to start school.

“You’re from Liberia, so you have a disease," was what the nine year-old heard as a greeting.

The unrelenting tenacity of the Ebola virus - like HIV/AIDS- has taught us much about the preciousness of life, and about the various faces -across race, class and gender, country and continent -who wore and continue to wear the face of this disease.

But since September 30, when Thomas Eric Duncan became the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the states and subsequently died of the virus, West Africans, specifically Liberians have been the target of unimaginable stigmatization and untold discrimination.

The hysteria and paranoia associated with Ebola