More Than Pushing Pills: Black AIDS Activism in the Bay Area, 1981-1996
This dissertation traces Black AIDS Activism in the Bay Area and how the layered crises of the crack cocaine epidemic, chronic joblessness, and poverty shaped HIV/AIDS prevention and education efforts. It also compares Black health activism with ways policymakers, local media outlets, and health professionals’ interventions and perspectives helped or hindered Black communities. Many public health officials and journalists purported that poor and working-class African Americans’ behavior—particularly that of drug users, sex workers, gay men and men who had sex with men (but did not identify as being gay)—placed them at greater risk of infection. This approach ignores ways chronic joblessness, police surveillance, inadequate access to health care, and other structural inequities, disregarded by the medical community before HIV/AIDS was identified, contributed to African Americans’ disease susceptibility. As a result, Black activists paved the way for new, alternative, relevant methods to HIV/AIDS prevention, awareness, and outreach throughout the 1980s by contesting the liberalism of the “San Francisco Model of Care.” Their community care methods remain helpful for public health departments failing to develop effective harm reduction tactics in low-income communities of color.