Aids or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is an incurable disease that breaks down the human immune system causing certain death from even the mildest ills such as the common cold. It was first identified in the United States in 1981 by some gay men. This led to widespread speculation that the disease was cause by homosexuals relations, even being called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency or GRID in the early days of it. The news coverage of the AIDS outbreak essentially brought the effects and truths to the public and it, to no surprise, cause panic and worry throughout the entire world. In a 1981 news article entitled, "Mystery disease kills Homosexuals," it reflects the uncertainty and speculation it caused. For example, "Researchers claim that their findings are 'part of a nationwide epidemic of immunodeficiency among male homosexuals'. Doctors are unsure of the cause of the epidemic which is carried in semen and other body secretions."
Since 1981, new developments, updates, and stories have arisen from once which was known as the "mystery disease" to a worldwide pandemic. In 1982, the year after AIDS was first identified in the United States, a Washington Post article written by Cristine Russell wrote about AIDS being found linked to blood transfusions, while only a year before it was only known to be transferred through sexual contact, mainly between homosexual men. Russell wrote, "The initial outbreak among homosexuals, who now comprise about 75 percent of the total cases, suggested the disease was spread through sexual contact. The new reports add that it may also spread through contaminated blood products."
Throughout the 1980s, AIDS was shaped in the news media in really only two ways. Some articles shaped the story as a catastrophe that would eventually doom the entire planet. In an 1985 Newsweek article entitled '' AIDS: A Growing Pandemic?" the writers documenting a meeting that included representatives from all around searching for answer on combating the virus. They writers wrote, "last week more than 2,000 public-health experts from around the world gathered in Atlanta for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's international symposium on the deadly disease, the largest gathering of its kind ever held. And it became clear that AIDS has become one of the most sinister infectious diseases of this or any other century, threatening the world's general population and assuming the proportions of what epidemiologists call a 'pandemic'."
Other articles shaped the story with a sense of hope or assuring for the public that an answer may soon come. For example in a 1986 New York Times article entitled "Don't Panic, Yet, Over Aids" this particular writer angled the story as something serious, but not entirely hopeless and even encouraged readers to seek awareness and educate themselves on the disease, "Even if AIDS stays confined to the present risk groups, there's a strong case for educating everyone how to guard against the virus - essentially by using condoms and by avoiding anal intercourse and unclean needles. But crash programs can be overzealous, like the swine flu vaccination program against an epidemic that never arrived.With the homosexual community acting to educate and protect itself, the prime target for preventive efforts remains intravenous drug addicts. There is no proof yet that the general public is equally at risk. To prevent further spread of AIDS, the smartest thing to do now is to resist exaggerated fears of heterosexual transmission - and to fund more drug treatment programs."
The coverage AIDS in the 1980s created fear and panic among the public and created many rumors, speculations, and myths to how it started, is transferred, and how it is prevented. It was something that no one was prepared for and the news was a main vehicle to give the world any sort of precautions, updates, treatments, and revelations concerning the disease. The media coverage of the AIDS virus was framed similarly to the recent swine flu pandemic uncovered recently, with several people including journalists not knowing the facts and just reporting on speculation.
1. "Don't Panic, Yet, Over Aids" by a New York Times editorial desk writer, November 7, 1986. http://0-www.lexisnexis.com.opac.sfsu.edu/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T6518416268&format=GNBFI&sort=DATE,A,H&startDocNo=126&resultsUrlKey=29_T6518404082&cisb=22_T6518417879&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=6742&docNo=129
2.Newsweek, April 29, 1985, UNITED STATES EDITION, MEDICINE; Pg. 71, 1012 words, MATT CLARK with VINCENT COPPOLA in Atlanta. http://0-www.lexisnexis.com.opac.sfsu.edu/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T6518416268&format=GNBFI&sort=DATE,A,H&startDocNo=26&resultsUrlKey=29_T6518404082&cisb=22_T6518417879&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=5774&docNo=47
3.The Washington Post, December 10, 1982, Friday, Final Edition, First Section; A1, 1070 words, By Cristine Russell, Washington Post Staff Writer. http://0-www.lexisnexis.com.opac.sfsu.edu/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T6518416268&format=GNBFI&sort=DATE,A,H&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T6518404082&cisb=22_T6518417879&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=8075&docNo=1
4. "Mystery Disease Kills Homosexuals" unknown writer or publisher (1981). http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/10/newsid_4020000/4020391.stm