The AIDS epidemic has been widely interpreted as a challenge to the institutions and the values that typify the achievements of modern Western society: science and medicine, respect for the rights and concern for the welfare of all citizens. So far, the record of our societal and institutional response has been mixed at best, possibly because AIDS came upon us in ways that tested our motives and our institutions. By emerging among groups that are largely despised and rejected, AIDS proved once again the truism that the importance of an event may be determined less by what happened than to whom it happened.
The prospect of safer representations of AIDS bodies and panicked sex requires recognizing that media images aid cultural symbols and this as Stuart Hall (1982) has commented: implies the active work of selecting and presenting, of structuring and shaping: not merely the transmitting of already-existing meaning, but the more active labor of making things mean.
In the early days of the AIDS epidemic (at a point when widespread educational efforts might have saved thousands of lives since lost), Congressman Henry Waxman of California made this point by contrasting public response to AIDS and to Legionnaire's disease: "Legionnaire's disease hit a group of predominately white, heterosexual, middle-aged ...Show more