Throughout the past five decades, positive changes have been seen in regards to HIV and AIDS. However, many myths still abound as old misperceptions resurface, and with new HIV research showing promise to prevent transmission, we are likely to see more dramatic perception change in the following decades.
An interesting visual representation of HIV perception changes can be viewed at the National Library of Medicine (NLM): HIV/AIDS Posters that span the years 1986-1994.
My favorite poster is from a fraternity (1990) including Egyptian-style illustration of a man and woman having sex in a very awkward and back-breaking position, with the tag line: "If you think this looks dangerous, try doing it without a condom".
Here is a glimpse of where we've been through the decades:
In the beginning of the HIV epidemic, fear and ignorance led to hostile, even violent treatment towards individuals living with HIV. The harshest of suggested “treatments” including “forced quarantine of all people living with HIV” (NLM).
A teenager named Ryan White (1971-1990) is credited with forcing AIDS issues onto the public agenda through a “landmark legal battle with the school system” when HIV was still misunderstood or ignored as a homosexual disease (People That Changed the Perception of HIV).
Ryan White was born a hemophiliac, diagnosed with AIDS at age 13 (see a picture of Ryan with his mom), and contracted HIV through a blood transfusion (HIV tests were uncommon, and much of the blood supply was tainted at this time). He was not allowed to attend school, as it was still erroneously believed that HIV could be acquired by casual contact.