Publicly funded videos of HIV/AIDS prevention were homophobic and further the stigma of the virus. Instead of encouraging people to get tested they suggested abstinence and put the blame on those who had the disease.
The United States played a big role in the stigma of queer individuals who had contracted HIV/AIDS virus. The government refused to speak to the community that HIV/AIDS was affecting the most (queer men) in fear of endorsing deviant behavior. During the peak of the AIDS epidemic a lot of the health campaigns which were publicly funded did not address the realities of those most affected from the virus. Instead of addressing the ways that queer men could have safer sex and reduce the spread of infection they instead supported the idea of monogamy and celibacy( AIDS: Homophobic and Moralistic…”)
Public officials were even feeding into the stigma of HIV/AIDS. Patrick Buchanan who was a senior advisor to presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan said this about the disease
“ [homosexual men] have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.”
These are just two out of many cases where discrimination was enacted on HIV positive indivduals.
Through the character of Roy Cohn (who is based off of the real life American lawyer of that same name) and Prior Walter the audience can better understand what is what like to be a queer person living with H.I.V/ A.I.D.S which both were heavily stigmatized during that time period . In Angels in America Roy, is depicted as a closeted queer man. He is someone who comes from a place of power and he will do anything to stay in that place, this lies the challenge of him being a queer person. Roy, just like many other Americans at that time, had a negative perception on the LGBT community and more specifically gay men and thought of them as weak and less than. Roy voices out that opinion in one of the scenes in the show when he is talking to his doctor about how he does not really like or approve of labels when it comes to sexuality and he says
“Homosexuals are men who know nobody and who nobody knows, who have zero clout. Does this sound like me Henry? No. I have clout. Lots.” (Kushner)
Roy lived his life out in a secret because ultimately he was afraid of the criticism and backlash that he would have faced for being queer and having A.I.D.S. He was the epitome of the disgust that the American public had for queer individuals with AIDS because even with all the power that Roy had he so much self-hatred for being queer.
Prior Walter is another character in the show that is afflicted with the AIDS virus. Unlike Roy, Prior is an openly gay effeminate man and his struggles with social prejudice and the virus are much different because of it. When Prior tells his partner Louis that he has AIDS he is met with Louis leaving him. Prior voices out his hurt from his partner leaving him when he says to him “there are thousands of gay men in New York City with AIDS and nearly every one of them is being taken care of by…a friend or by…a lover who has stuck by them through things worse than my…So far. Everyone got that, except me. I got you. Why? What’s wrong with me” (Kushner.) This was a common struggle that many other people with the virus faced (find quote). Not only did he have to deal with all the stigma that society gave him but from his own community America’s stigma for AIDS was so strong that it had even seeped into the community it was effecting the most.