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Three Decades of HIV/AIDS, Part Two

Ignorance, Fear and Hysteria (1985-1990) and Activism (1990-1995)

By Bob Frascino, M.D.

June 30, 2011

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This is Part Two of a three-part blog entry; read Part One and Part Three of the series.

On October 2, 1985, a bombshell dropped on Hollywood. Rock Hudson died of AIDS.

Rock Hudson.

Now the deadly disease had a face.

Rock Hudson: Newsweek cover.

Rock Hudson revealed he had AIDS and died less than three months later. The fear of this yet-to-be-understood killer suddenly could be seen and felt everywhere. A Life Magazine cover story raised awareness in the heterosexual community for the first time.

Life Magazine.

The title "Now No One Is Safe From AIDS" is fascinating, as it implied to the straight community that it was somehow safe prior to Rock Hudson's death.

The increased awareness of HIV/AIDS quickly led to irrational fear.

Time Magazine cover: The Big Chill, How Heterosexuals Are Coping With AIDS.

By 1985 there were 15,948 cases of AIDS and 8,161 AIDS deaths. Ryan White, a youngster who contracted HIV from a tainted blood product used to treat hemophilia, was barred from attending public school.

AIDS Victim Barred by School.

Ryan White.

AIDS hysteria flared dramatically across the country.

Schools, health officials face wave of AIDS hysteria.

AIDS hysteria cartoon.

In pop culture Hollywood's Screen Actors Guild announced that open-mouth kissing was "a possible health hazard" and the general population quickly internalized this unwarranted fear.


It's interesting to note that to this day the "can I contract HIV/AIDS from kissing" question continues to be a QTND (question that never dies) in the Safe Sex and HIV Prevention expert forum on this Web site.

Rocker Sebastian Bach wore a shirt in concert asserting that "AIDS Kills Fags Dead."

Sebastian Bach (without the offensive t-shirt).
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See Also
Three Decades of HIV/AIDS: Are You Ready to Dance?
Three Decades of HIV/AIDS, Part Three
20 Years of Magic: How One Man's HIV Disclosure Inspired Others
More on the 30th Anniversary of AIDS


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Life, Love, Sex, HIV and Other Unscheduled Events

Bob Frascino, M.D., was President and Founder of The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation. He had been an outspoken, popular expert in's "Ask the Experts" forums on safe sex and fatigue/anemia since 2000. Once a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Frascino served as Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Immunology, Rheumatology, and Allergy, at Stanford University Medical Center from 1983 until 2001. He was a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and had also been a distinguished member of the executive boards of numerous state and regional associations.

We're inexpressibly saddened to share the news that Dr. Frascino passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. Click here to read more and to share your thoughts.

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