Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.
Chapter 39: Dying of AIDs and Social Stigmatization
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 2001) describes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, as a “specific group of diseases or conditions which are indicative of severe immunosuppression related to infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)” (p. 1). HIV suppresses the immune system by attacking the T4 lymphocytes, preventing them from recognizing and destroying even the most innocuous of foreign invaders. Once the immune system breaks down, opportunistic infections such asPneumocystis carinii pneumonia, toxoplasmosis, Kaposi's sarcoma, candidiasis, cytomegalovirus retinitis, ...