Cal Poly's Response to the AIDS Crisis of the 1980s

Tessa N. St Clair, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


“It would probably bother me because it’s such a social disease.” So responded a student of California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo when asked if she would be bothered if a classmate had AIDS for a 1986 article in The Mustang Daily. Referring to AIDS as a “social disease” as opposed to a sexually transmitted disease reflects the common misconception at the time that AIDS could be contracted by casual contact with someone who had it. Many misconceptions arose after the first cases of AIDS, otherwise known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome and later known as HIV in its first stages, were reported in June of 1981. Little did the world know that in the following years to come, the number of lives that would be taken by the mysterious disease would total an estimated 34 million as of 2014. Those affected by the virus were of all ethnicities, genders, and even ages; college students and elderly alike.