Una Mullally: The rhymes between HIV/Aids and Covid-19 are multiple

The metaphors used to give meaning in both pandemics are strangely similar

A giant landart painting, Beyond Crisis, by French artist  Saype in the alpine resort of Leysin, western Switzerland. Photograph: Valentin Flauraud for Saype/AFP via Getty Images

A giant landart painting, Beyond Crisis, by French artist Saype in the alpine resort of Leysin, western Switzerland. Photograph: Valentin Flauraud for Saype/AFP via Getty Images

‘Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”

In Illness as Metaphor (1978), Susan Sontag examined the language used around tuberculosis and cancer. It’s interesting to revisit her writing now, as the Covid-19 pandemic lends itself so obviously to metaphor. In many ways, we cannot really think or write without metaphor in order to ascribe meaning.

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