USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘HIV’
Legends
Protection

Clubbing and Needles Urban Legend

Informant: “From what I was told is that at clubs or music events there are some really crappy people who make it their mission to infect people with HIV with syringes that have the blood of an infected person. So, like, you are dancing and someone comes up to you and stabs you with a needle and boom, you are infected. I don’t know if this ever happened, but it seems possible I guess, and because it’s possible I don’t mess around with any sketchy clubs.”

Context: The informant is the brother of the collector and spoke about this legend during a discussion about parties. The informant said that they first heard of this legend from their girlfriend at the time in high school at an LMFAO concert at the Orpheum.

Informant Analysis: When he analyzed what this legend means, he said that it is most likely some warning of “sketchy clubs” and that people shouldn’t take drugs from people they do not know. He noted that even though he does not necessarily believe this legend is true, it is entertaining and scary enough to have made him tell others about it.

Collector Analysis: While I believe this legend may be some sort of protection warning to any person attending music festivals or clubs while also serving as an entertaining horror story, it also may stand for other fears young people may have at party events. In particular, when we are speaking of needles and partying, it is possibly that this legend is in reference to certain hard drugs that can be shared at these events. In any situation where needles are involved or being shared, there is great fear of contracting something from someone. This fear may have inspired the legend. It may also be analyzed from the angle of the danger of being unaware in a party atmosphere where people let their guard down and are preyed upon unexpectedly. We can also analyze why the legend refers to HIV in particular and not some other disease or drug. This legend may serve as a warning to young people having intercourse with people they do not know who may have HIV. We can see that there is an insidious perpetrator who infects a victim while the victim is enjoying themselves, which may closely relate to a warning of having many unknown sexual partners. Lastly, it should be noted that in clubs or music events there is a large grouping of unknown people who are, while at the event, in a sort of forced community and friendship. The fear of being hurt by an unknown person who is supposed to be a friend is a great use of the idea of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.

Adulthood
Humor

Haitian AIDS/HIV Medicine Joke

“So, back when I was doing HIV work I used to hear this joke all the time from my gay patients. It would go something like, ‘What’s the hardest part about having HIV?’ and the gay guy would say, ‘Convincing my mom I had sex with a Haitian. *laughing* ”

Context: This joke was performed at a dinner party whose guests were primarily family, with the informant being the father of the collector. The joke was said midway into dinner while the guests and informant had been drinking wine.

Informant Analysis: The doctor who said this joke had done much work during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s and 90’s. At the time, it was more of a secret for men to be gay since it was largely deemed “deplorable” by the average American. Today, this sort of anti-gay rhetoric has decreased. Many of the doctor’s patients were gay, had HIV, but also had a wife and children. They kept their sexual orientation hidden to their families and friends. However, when the HIV epidemic began to ravage America’s gay population, it was often difficult to hide the fact that you were gay since getting AIDS was considered a sign. Along with being gay being a sign of having AIDS, it was also common belief that Haitians also had it since there was and still is a high percentage of HIV positive people in Haiti.

Collector Analysis: The joke seems to play on the taboo topic of  coming out as gay to one’s mother. It seems to show that, especially during the 80’s, being considered gay was completely out of the question for many homosexual males. Instead of coming out as gay after being diagnosed with AIDS, the patient would rather say they got it from sex with a Haitian. The joke itself hinges on the fact that the highest percentage of HIV is found in homosexuals and Haitians. The humor also makes light of a situation which, especially during the 80’s, was considered a death sentence. Medical humor, including this joke, often contains this sort of dark humor to try to lessen the pain involved with such terrible situations.

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