John Mehring


[Excerpt] In the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, AIDS was primarily an urban phenomenon, appearing first among gay men, intravenous (I.V.) drug users and their sexual partners.

Service workers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Newark and Miami were among the first to confront this mysterious and frightening disease. As the number of AIDS patients grew, attention and anxiety followed. Reports surfaced that some healthcare and other workers were discriminating against persons with AIDS or those perceived to be at high risk for AIDS: gay men and minorities in inner-city areas.

Sensational press coverage focused on public workers wearing protective equipment. These workers reacted to what they understood as possible exposure to AIDS by putting a barrier between themselves and the public: police and transit workers wore gloves, sanitation and public works employees donned suits and masks.