Compare And Contrast The Responses To And Effects On Governments And Societies Of The Pandemics Of The Fourteenth Century - The Black Death And The Contemporary Period - HIV-AIDS

Compare And Contrast The Responses To And Effects On Governments And Societies Of The Pandemics Of The Fourteenth Century - The Black Death And The Contemporary Period - HIV-AIDS

HIV/AIDS and the Black Death have been compared to each other claiming that HIV/AIDS could be the modern Black Death. Both pandemics share an uncertain way of spreading and a lethal nature. When evaluating their effects and responses aspects such as the government and economy were comparable. Governing bodies attempted to control and eradicate the pandemics by implementing either laws or programs. The economies however, had negative effects during the Black Death and with most places affected by HIV/AIDS like Africa and China. Many of the factors recognized led to other effects on society. The biggest similarity was how much of the world each pandemic affected. Both HIV/AIDS and Black Death covers a large portion of the worlds. Moreover, the effect each one has made on the world is significant as well.

The most obvious effect on society is the death toll created by the Black Death and HIV/AIDS. At least one third to sixty percent of Europe’s population died because of the Bubonic Plague, (Slavicek, 78). The demographics changed because of these deaths and the economy suffered effects. Before the plague, England suffered from overpopulation and had a surplus of labor workers that benefitted and land owning class greatly, (Ibeji). Because of the numerous infected people, the economy suffered from labor shortages. This caused a decreased in commercial activity. During the fourteenth century, the main economic source was agriculture, which the serfs maintained. After the plague hit the amount of workers significantly decreased and the remaining workers, fearful of the disease, demanded better working conditions and more pay, (Hays, 49). When the demands for the conditions were ignored, several peasant revolts erupted, the most famous of them being the Peasant Revolt of 1381, which was unsuccessful. The lack of serfs and willing worker played a role in the disruption of the Feudal system. This led to a redistribution among society, (Byrne,57). In the Muslin world not only did they face a labor shortage but a depression as well. Because of the mass migration to escape the plague, fields of crops went unattended and some communities starved, (Bryne, 274).Commerce also declined in the Muslim society as the states of Christendom, one of the Muslim’s trading partners, changed their trading system as well. Instead of the high quality goods such as “fancy cloth” that Christians originally fancied, they invested in homemade items, (Bryne, 275). In addition, China faced labor shortages resulting from the pandemic. China being the origin of the plague, spread it along the silk roads; this contributed to the disruption of the Silk roads, (Barbier, 179). Furthermore, the mongo Empire, who ran the Silk Road, was also affected by the black plague. During this time the Empire was already split by the fourteenth century causing a disruption in the Silk Roads, (Hays, 61). Eventually, combination of the division within the empire and the Black Death led to the fall of the Mongol empire. China became less dependent on trade and industrialization and more dependent on agriculture, (Barbier,179).

HIV/AIDS death toll greatly affects developing countries economy for they too suffer from a labor shortage. Because of their poor health care system, caring for people with HIV or being infected with HIV is detrimental to the work force. Most household with this problem have either little or no income to support them, (Hays,440). This reduction of labor leads to a smaller productivity rate. The laborers left to work are young inexperienced persons, which further add to the decreased productivity rate. People are taking long breaks of rest to get better before returning to work but these breaks affect trade as well. Now African countries with high percentage of infected people rely on imports more than their labor force, (BMJ). Furthermore, in these developing countries it is harder to afford medication for HIV/AIDS. The manufactures of the medicine-Americans and Europeans- want proper compensation for their work adding to the expense. However, since some African leaders still do not HIV’s presence, it is hard to negotiate a reasonable price, (Hays, 445). In the US, the treat of HIV/AIDS is not as large. The economy is more stable as more people can afford the treatments here than in Africa. However, there are gaps in the data that may lead to different conclusions later on, (Scitovsky, 33). Some of Africa’s characteristics are somewhat reflected in China as well. The Chinese economy is greatly affected as well. States in the country have cut back on the role of the country’s health care provider. This has left many people unable to get basic treatment for the disease as well as led to some clinics closing down . Those affected the most are the “floating population” which are people with no job or are in between jobs, (Gill et. all, 105).

The loss of millions of people caused the suffering populations of the pandemics to find the source of the trouble. With the Black Death, people looked to religion for answers. They believed that god was punishing them and through acts of faith, the plague could vanish. Pilgrimages, prayer, and repentance were all ways to relieve themselves from God’s wrath, (Bryne,92). The flagellants practiced public flogging going from town to town to help eradicate the plague. They believed that if the felt pain and suffering of Christ, they would be sacrificing themselves for everyone’s sins, (Hays, 57). However not everyone enjoyed their display. Tension between them and the Catholic Church grew; if the plague stopped because of their self-flogging, that would undermine the Catholic Church leading people to believe they do not need the Catholic Church anymore, (Hays,57). After the plague ended attitudes toward God shifted; people gradually stopped focusing on God’s wrath and centered more on human action. Northern Italian City states took an active role in preventing the plague with health regulations and isolation facilities, (Hays, 50). Another scapegoat during this period were the Jews. The Jews were believed to have poisoned the water supply with poisoned meat, (Bryne, 199). In the Confession of Agiment of Geneva, it is revealed that such conspiracies were true and as punishment, Jews were imprisoned, (The confession of Agiment Geneva). Other punishments included torture and burning Jews alive, (Chon). However not all people supported this negative treatment of the Jews; Pope Clement IV was one of these people. He asked his bishops to tell their subject “not to dare capture, strike, wound, or kill any of the jews or expel them from their service on earth”, (Sicut Judeais). However, these sentiments were not adhered to, as Pop Clement IV would not be the last pope to address hios subjects on the matter, (Thurston). The Muslim communities looked to religion for an explanation on the pandemic. However, instead of believing they were being punished like Europe, they believed that it was an act of martyrdom; If someone was infected with the Black Death, they were a martyr, (Ibn, Al-Wardi). This belief led to their explanation on how the disease spread in Muslim society. Since everyone who received the plague was a martyr, God had specifically chosen him or her and there was no such thing as a contagion or medication to cure it, (Bryne ,236).

HIV/AIDS scapegoat were the Homosexuals. This was a predominate belief on the US until 1982. Before then AIDS was known as Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease or GRID. This created a fear of homosexuals with citizens showing hostility toward them. Gays were fired from jobs and denied health insurance and “demonized by the extreme right wing”, (Mari, 49). Demographics showed that most people contracting HIV/AIDS were male homosexuals. This created a fear of homosexuals. However, the CDC identified that homosexuals were not the only people affected by the disease after further research. Intravenous drug users who contracted HIV/AIDS by using previously used needles were another group largely affected by the pandemic. In addition, hemophiliacs, Haiti natives, and people who traveled to or lived in Africa were among other groups infected with HIV/AIDS. When this news came out, the name GRID changed to its name today, (Hays, 427). After the 1980s, HIV/AIDS became known as a disease of the minorities as well as heterosexuals, (Hays, 428). People changes their views and AIDS went from being a disease one deserved to unifying people and raising awareness about it, (Mari, 50).

The political authority in Europe did as much to fight directly against the plague as they did to fight the effects of society that came with it. Sanitation laws were passed to battle against the unsanitary air such as paving and keeping the streets clean and removing things that caused rank smelling objects such as rotten food and human waste, (Bryne,172). With the decline of serfdom in Europe, many elites were not content with the inflation of wages and deflation of prices. Laws were passed such as the English Statute of Laborers of 1351 in attempt to offset what was happening, (Hays, 36). Since citizens believed that God was punishing them, the political authority set moral standards. The political authority outlawed “sexual immortality”, sodomy and prostitution, to cleanse the area, (Bryne, 173). However, the expulsion of the infected spread the plague to other locations. Other measures were to shut the infected in their houses along with their family or to quarantine all the infected in one area, (Bryne, 176). Several more outbreaks occurred over the years concluding that these measures may not have been very effective. Muslim governments relied on spiritual measures to block out the plague such as sponsoring assemblies for prayer and processions to shrines and cemeteries. Many of the sultans fled, which was against the Muslim religion. Response to the plague for the Muslims remained consistent throughout the entire pandemic, (Bryne, 273-274).

Modern governments are using similar tactics when it comes to treating HIV/AIDS. In the United States, government officials have been funding HIV/AIDS programs such as the NIH and the CDC, (Johnson, 6). In addition, the United States is teaching about sexual education and giving out clean unused needles to the drug users, (Hays, 444).However, other countries were not, quick to acknowledge the presence of this pandemic. China once”dismissed… [the pandemic] as a western problem” and that homosexuality was not a popular occurrence, (Gill, 96). However, instead of homosexuality, the source of the pandemic was blood transfusions. In 2002, China finally admitted its existence. About 740,000 people are living in China with HIV, (HIV/AIDS in China). Today China is implementing some of the same ideas seen in the US; they are teaching about practicing safe sexual habits. Africa as well had a difficult time accepting HIV/AIDS. Some of Africa did respond well such as Uganda and began its own programs of teaching sex education as well as distributing condoms which lowered disease rates. Most countries, unfortunately, believed otherwise and teaching these practices were bad. They believed it would be better to teach about abstinence because teaching about condoms would encourage the behavior associated with it. In addition, some people believe that the use of a condom entails that one does not trust their partner. Religious officials shared similar beliefs about condoms; in order not to contract AIDS, a person should be sexually faithful to their significant other, (Hays, 444).

The Black Death and HIV/AID have similar progressions. Responses to the respective pandemics seem to parallel each other especially governmental. Social issues arose from both parties that caused society to question their views on their religion and people. Attitudes during the pandemics shifted leading to major changes in think and practices. Government responses are almost identical with the main goal of eradicating the pandemic; both are taking/took a long time to find a solution. The economies correspond as well with the loss of people the working class declines and so does production. This can lead the economy to either plummet or struggle for an extended amount of time resulting in a depression or recession. The research done shows that the statement made earlier about HIV/AIDS being the modern Black Death may be true.


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