Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Special Majors

Reader 1

Dr. Urmi Engineer Willoughby

Reader 2

Dr. Jih-Fei Cheng

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Rights Information

© 2022 Julia Young


The treatment and survival of a society's marginalized peoples reveal the true impacts of a pandemic. An analysis of homeless queer youth during the HIV/AIDS and SARS-CoV-2 crises lays bare the systemic failure of the United States government to provide equitable healthcare.

I compare the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics in queer homeless youth to demonstrate the dangers of disease moralization via a sociocultural analyses of disease stigma and responsibility politics. Utilizing syndemic theory I draw on the synergistic relationship between disease and illness to describe the unique challenges queer homeless youth face. A syndemic framework is applied to address common comorbidities that exist in queer homeless youth populations, with a focus on socio-cultural phenomena that rendered queer youth susceptible and vulnerable to homeless, HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health struggles, and tobacco use. Understanding how and why queer homeless youth become ill lays the foundation for how disease moralization impacts resource and healthcare accessibility. The social construction of HIV/AIDS aided in the creation of the "at-risk identity" whereby all queer peoples are understood to be at risk for HIV, and thus queerness itself becomes a risk factor. The at-risk identity and the moralization of HIV creates a sense of "deservedness;" i.e. queer people deserve their diagnosis, suffering and death due to their engagement in risky behavior. Key risk behaviors include anal and vaginal sex and intravenous drug usage. Understandings of consent and survival further frame how queer homeless youth are impacted. The at-risk identity and conception of deservedness may be compared to COVID-19. Queer homeless youth engage in many COVID-19 "risky" behaviors, such as not socially distancing, which leads to a social conception of deserving their illness and the suffering that comes with it. These existing crises have amplified the impact of an unjust healthcare system.