Until a Cure is Found”: Children with AIDS and the People who Cared for Them 1988 – 1994

Jason M. Chernesky

Bates Center, University of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 4:00pm

Claire M. Fagin Hall, Room 116
418 Curie Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Numerous academic and popular accounts about HIV-AIDS have been written. They show how gay male activists, physicians, politicians, and the public were affected by, and responded to, an epidemic that took many Americans by surprise when it emerged in the early 1980s. But few historical accounts about HIV-AIDS have comprehensively interrogated how the disease factored in the lives of American children and the nurses that cared for them. Taken from my dissertation, “The Littlest Victims”: Pediatric AIDS and the Urban Ecology of Health in the Late Twentieth-Century United States, my paper shows how nurses, grandmothers, foster parents, foster care facilities, and other health care professionals comprised a network of care that helped treat children with AIDS in the years before the development of effective antiretroviral therapies. Using a pediatric AIDS-care center in Newark, New Jersey as my lens, I explore the central role nurses played in caring for children and families with HIV-AIDS in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. In addition to the work of pediatric-AIDS nurses, the tapestry of experiences and actors presented in my paper reminds us how a demographically representative portrait of the epidemic – sensitive to place, race, and the politics of representation – is imperative when understanding the full scope of the AIDS experience in the United States.
Jason M. Chernesky is a PhD candidate in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in the histories of U.S. health care, public health, children’s health and environmental history in the twentieth-century United States. Jason’s dissertation explores the intersecting histories of pediatric AIDS, post-World War II children’s health care, and the American inner city. His dissertation reveals what happens when a disease associated with the taboo behavior of adults begins affecting infants and children. Jason is currently the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities and Urban Design Initiative Dissertation fellow at Penn’s School of Design.