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“A Caring Disease”: Nursing and Patient Advocacy on the United States’ First AIDS Ward, 1983-1995

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This dissertation examines the radical activism performed by the nurses who constructed and ran the United States’ first AIDS ward: San Francisco General Hospital Ward 5B. By examining these healthcare pioneers’ emotional, political, and intellectual labor—and the tensions and contradictions that characterized their work—A Caring Disease re-conceptualizes AIDS advocacy in the 1980s: what it was, and who performed it. It uses the ward’s official records, oral histories, professional publications, media coverage, and legal documents to demonstrate that the nursing staff’s radical practices (and the queer, feminist politics informing them) shaped AIDS care and activism at both a local and national level. Existing literature on the history of AIDS privileges the direct-action advocacy of ACT UP, and in so doing places the start of the People with AIDS (PWA) movement in 1987. In asserting the larger importance of feminized, affective, and paid labor in the politics of the epidemic, A Caring Disease reperiodizes and diversifies the movement.

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This item is under embargo until September 13, 2023.