Thursday, April 30, 2009

Deadly AIDs Disease Identified

When AIDS was finally identified in the early 80's people were not only shocked by fear but a stigma against homosexual men was created as well. As the Center for Disease Control struggled to find the funding they needed to conduct the proper research the fear and worry only escalated throughout society. With fear of the unknown being a basic human condition, many individuals were left only to their own devices to decide what was safe and what wasn't when it came to the AIDS virus.
In 1984 The New York Times released an article titled, The Slow Response to AIDS, in which a sense of relief was conveyed in knowing that AIDS only existed in homosexual and bisexual men, intravenous drug users and hemophiliacs. However, the article then goes on to point out that AIDS may also be sexually transmitted by someone who shows no symptoms what so ever. Although extremely tame, the author attempts to criticize the American Government for its slow and effortless response to the current issue at hand. The main source for the story appears to be the House Committee on Government Operation who was said to have shunned the Public Health Service for turning down the initial funding to further study of the deadly disease. The article seems to be framed for the more conservative reader while still trying to shed some light on the dissatisfaction of some.
Quite opposite to this approach, The Washington Post published an article in 1985 titled, The Spread of Fear, in which Mary McGrory expresses pure and utter disgust with the reactions of American society to the issue of AIDS. She points out the various references to the disease that portray gay men in the most negative of lights. Once considered the "gay plague" and "God's punishment of homosexuals for their perverted lifestyle," McGrory attempts to use statements from such officials as politicians, doctors and Health and Human Services Officials to dispel these false theories. The writer suggests that the fear that is spreading among parents for the safety of their children at school is purely absurd. McGrory uses a variety of sources to get her point across and appears to be targeting the every day citizen. Her writing is powerful, compelling and radical for its time.
While both of these articles show some sense of discontent with the nation for their inability to handle such a fragile tragedy, the writing for The Washington Post is clearly the more dramatic and honest. They do share a certain commonality however. As both of these articles were written in the mid 80's they are a testament to the changing of the way in which reporters choose to express themselves. Never before would we have seen such out right insult to the American people or a challenging of the status quo to this degree in a major news publication. Historically homosexuals have always been discriminated against by the news media. Here we see a coming of age in which people feel confident in their right to stand up for a minority group and speak their truth. Articles like that of The Washington Post should be praised because they represent true, raw journalism.


  1. It's great that you took the time to find these perfect examples of the disparate attitudes towards AIDS in the 1980's. It was an unpopular subject, and I'm sure reporters were not encourages everywhere to cover the subject in a fair and balanced way.

  2. It's great that you were able to find these two articles because they are such great examples of the different ways that journalist dealt with the AIDS crisis. I bet it took you a while to find the one by McGrory, and I bet you had to wade through a bunch of wimpy articles before you found it.

  3. Journalism coverage of HIV/AIDS seems to be as transformative as the epidemic itself. News coverage of AIDS in the 1980’s was limited, simply because scientists, doctors, and the general public knew very little about what was then an emerging disease. No one believed AIDS would exist on the scale that it does now, almost 30 years later. Where AIDS was once ignorantly considered a “gay disease,” the epidemic is now recognized globally – affecting not only various marginalized communities within the U.S, but also millions of people worldwide no matter what their sexuality may be. Journalists today are faced with the challenges of public stigma when reporting AIDS related stories just as they were in the 80’s, but perhaps even worse in present day when the complexity and depth of the disease cannot be ignored. The new face of AIDS in America is no longer white-gay men in San Francisco, but rather communities of color, especially women. True coverage of the epidemic by today’s standards would raise serious ethical questions surrounding the disease – something journalists may be pressued about. Coverage of HIV/AIDS issues can be considered a moral obligation – considering the devastating impact of AIDS. There is a reason it is now called a “silent epidemic,” and I have to wonder what role does the press play in that silence?

    Thanks for your analysis, I think you did a fantastic thought-provoking job.

  4. Great job looking at both sides of the coverage.
    Comaparing what you said to what's happening now with HIV/AIDS coverage, I see that some progress has been made, but the same issues effect the African continent in particular.

    More than 60 percent of HIV-positive people in the world live in sub-saharan Africa. Of those, 59 percent are women.

    I like how you pointed out the stigma that existed in the 1980s is still prevalent now, but it is largely a burden of women. Especially in African communities.

    You mentioned how HIV is called the "silent epidemic" and the book "The Invisible Cure" by Helen Epstein is a great look at why.