May 19, 2022 2 mins, 0 secs

“I think fear was the overwhelming feeling,” journalist Leon Neyfakh said to the Guardian, having interviewed many who survived the era for the most recent season of his Fiasco podcast.

“I don’t think we’ve ever made a season of our show that had a message with a capital M,” Neyfakh said over Zoom, eager not to position the show as a form of public service.

“In New York and San Francisco and LA, gay liberation was in full swing when this began and there was a lot of resistance when Berkowitz and Callen started advocating for safe sex because it felt like turning the clock back, it wasn’t just about being told you had to stop your party, it felt for many that it was like being told that people had to conform to mainstream society in a way that was anathema to gay liberation.”.

“There was just a total vacuum of knowledge and so it’s unsurprising that people had what turned out to be incorrect theories,” he said.

“I think I didn’t quite appreciate until I started working on the series how perfectly Aids fit into the pre-existing prejudices that people had against gays and lesbians,” Neyfakh said.

“I think what shocked me maybe even more than the mere fact of the numbers was just how powerful the inertia was on the blood industry,” Neyfakh said.

“Not changing practices and refusing to accept that their product, whether it was blood that was donated or plasma that was paid for, was suddenly essentially deadly and there were people trying to warn them and people trying to make proposals for how the product could be made safer.

It felt like a story about more than just hemophilia or blood donation, it felt like a story about how institutions and industries close ranks and are resistant to change even in the face of emergency.”.

In 2020, about 680,000 people died from Aids-related illnesses worldwide?

“I think there’s just little reason to be optimistic,” Neyfakh said

“How easy it is for people, if it’s not in front of them, to just not think about it

I think that, paired with the homophobia it triggered, explains a lot of why there was so little public urgency around this disease and I think that would occur now, if you can put something out of sight, it’s very easy to not care.”


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