On June 5, 1981, the first medical descriptions of AIDS-related illnesses appeared in the USA. 40 years have passed since then. We take a look back at the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in Luxembourg.
In May 1987, LCGB President Marcel Glesener addressed the public in a speech: “We must also be concerned about social diseases, like the drug problem, and like other contagious diseases, like AIDS”. “And the slogan (…) of the campaign to counter this new societal disease in Luxembourg is scandalous. (…) It doesn't involve rubber, as [Health Minister] Berg says. But we can only fight this disease if we manage to return to moral principles in Luxembourg and in the world!”
Since an HIV infection can primarily be transmitted through sexual activity, AIDS was a highly moralised disease from the beginning. Stigma, shame, homophobia and transphobia were closely associated with AIDS. However, the origins of the disease go back further – much further than 1981 – and are also closely linked to racism and European colonialism. Some scholars believe that HIV emerged in the early 20th century as a result of miserable conditions, forced labour and displacement, combined with the brutal colonial rule of white* Europeans over indigenous peoples. Black* slaves in plantations, construction projects and other colonial ventures were fed bushmeat by white Europeans, which came from monkeys, among other sources, leading to increased exposure to SIV, the monkey-derived precursor to HIV. So many Black people were dying of AIDS long before the 1980s. However, it was not until 1981, after the first white people started dying and death came closer to the white, western, heterosexual middle-class family, that the AIDS crisis officially began.
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40 years of Aids
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