Media portrayal of HIV/AIDS
The portrayal of HIV and AIDS in the media refers to events and trends in the discussion of HIV and AIDS in mass media. HIV leads to a large amount of illness and many deaths. It is unique from most other diseases because there is stigma and discrimination surrounding those affected with the disease. The transmission of HIV, however, is extremely preventable and the media is a very effective way to convey this information. The UNESCO report on Journalism Education says, “Well researched television content can create public awareness about HIV prevention, treatment, care and support can potentially influence the development and implementation of relevant policies.”
The condition which was later to be called AIDS was first noticed as something strange and different in June 1981 when the Centers for Disease Control reported that five gay men in Los Angeles all died from a similar rare set of disease symptoms. Within two months 100 more gay men had died, and there was public awareness from medical publication that some new disease existed. Most media outlets have shown the tendency to universalize by emphasizing the risk to an entire age group, sex or sexual orientation as opposed to the behaviors and characteristics of individuals which pose the greater risk. How and when various media outlets throughout the world published this information varies, as has subsequent and contemporary reporting and depiction of HIV and AIDS in the media.
- 1 Media figures known for presenting HIV/AIDS issues
- 2 Themes in media depictions
- 3 Notable depiction
- 4 Reports on cures
- 5 References
- 6 Sources
Media figures known for presenting HIV/AIDS issues
Worldwide and historically, public figures have often led trends in reporting HIV/AIDS issues.
Various health campaigns have had increased media discussion of HIV/AIDS as a goal.
Themes in media depictions
Some identified themes which repeatedly appear in media depicting HIV are the concept of "other", victim blaming, heterosexism, and comparisons of the lifestyles of people in urban areas versus rural areas.
In media with a theme of the "other" there is some depiction of a dichotomy. The divide in stories depicting AIDS is often HIV-positive people versus people without HIV, persons at high risk for contracting HIV versus people with low risk, innocent victims of HIV versus people shown to have guilt, and the general concept of contamination in blood versus pure blood. In all of these cases, the movie frequently portrays one side of the dichotomy as good and the other was evil.
- Victim blaming
The United States news media associated AIDS with gay men beginning in 1982 despite the CDC at that time having regularly revealed that other populations also were contracting the infection causing AIDS. By 1983 nearly all media about gay men was in the context of delivering AIDS stories. Movies which feature HIV as a theme frequently depict a gay male as the central character with AIDS. Media depiction of AIDS as a gay male disease is problematic because it fails to promote public understanding of the impact of AIDS on the diverse populations which AIDS affects.
- Urban versus rural
Representations of AIDS in media may make a comparison between urban and rural areas. In such portrayals, the city may be portrayed as a place for gay community and the spread of AIDS while the rural areas represent morality, conservationism, and freedom from harmful deviancy.
- Buddies (1985) - first independent film to depict the AIDS epidemic
- An Early Frost (1985) - first network film to depict the AIDS epidemic
Andy Lippincott's death from AIDS in the comic strip Doonesbury on May 24, 1990, ran on the obituary page of the The San Francisco Chronicle, and Andy also received a square in the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In Brazil a campaign was developed to counteract local Catholic leaders' assertion that condoms are permeable to HIV. The ad poster depicted a condom inflated with water and containing a goldfish and displaying a message which translates as, "nothing gets through a condom."
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva began an international discussion about fairness of pricing of HIV drugs when he signed a license allowing Brazil's purchase of generic Efavirenz against the wishes of the patent holder. The move marked an escalation in disagreement over drug pricing and was portrayed in the media as a victory for victims of HIV and expropriation of intellectual property by the pharmaceutical industry.
Burma is a world center for heroin production and is under military rule with a high level of censorship. Information about HIV is not encouraged by the government and there are few other media outlets.
The generals managing the government were slow to recognized HIV in the country. AIDS counseling and treatment is almost nonexistent. Condoms were banned in Burma until 1993.
28-year old Singer Nadja Benaissa of the hit band No Angels was convicted in 2010 of causing grievous bodily harm and attempting bodily harm by being HIV positive and having sex without disclosing her status. Benaissa was accused of having had sex a total of five times with three men when she was between the ages of 16-20 between 2000 and 2004. She admitted not informing them of her HIV status. One man later became infected with HIV. In court testimony court, one of the men said "We had sex between five and seven times, about three of those were unprotected." The case prompted an international discussion about HIV.
As the geographical base of the Catholic Church, Italy has been influential worldwide in discussion of HIV/AIDS. The relationship between the Catholic Church and AIDS has an effect on all places with a Catholic demographic.
By 1994 only a total of 4 people nationwide had admitted publicly that they were infected.
In 1990 the director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute announced that with a drug called Kemron he had cured many AIDS patients of HIV. Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi supported this claim whereupon the research received international scrutiny and was determined by all experts to be without merit.
In 1994 the Philippines government began its first major program to combat the spread of HIV. Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin spent much of that year denouncing the program in general and targeted Department of Health Secretary Juan Flavier by naming him an "agent of Satan" to hundreds of thousands of people for his condom promotion program. The church system also organized public burnings of boxes of condoms.
More recently, the Philippines has attracted greater media attention because of the steep rise in new HIV infections. Based on the UNAIDS Global report on the HIV-AIDS epidemic, the HIV incidence rate in the Philippines increased by more than 25% from 2001 to 2011. It is estimated that one Filipino gets infected with HIV every 1.5 hours.
An HIV surveillance study conducted in 2010 by Dr. Louie Mar Gangcuangco and colleagues from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital particularly attracted media attention because of the high HIV prevalence rate reported. The study found that out of 406 men having sex with men tested for HIV in Metro Manila, HIV prevalence was 11.8% (95% confidence interval: 8.7- 15.0), several times higher than the national prevalence for HIV. 
In the late 1980s Thai senator Mechai Viravaidya inaugurated a highly visible condom distribution campaign. At the same time the Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun supported public health with an sex education program which included requiring radio stations to run AIDS-education ads hourly.
In 1983 the United States Public Health Service defined AIDS as its "number one priority" and US secretary of Health Margaret Heckler said that it was her "top priority". In contrast, US President Ronald Reagan was elected to office in 1980 and held it until 1989, and in that time, he only gave a single speech mentioning the word "AIDS" and this was in 1987. Reagan's silence was interpreted by many as a profound lack of personal concern for victims of the worst infectious disease to emerge since the 1918 flu pandemic. In 1989 Reagan's personal doctor gave an interview in which he stated that "Mr. Reagan did not realize how serious the epidemic was until July 1985, when he saw a news report that Mr. Hudson, who later died of the disease, was seeking treatment for AIDS."
Rock Hudson was a high-profile Hollywood actor who died on 2 October 1985 from AIDS.
Earlier that year the AIDS Project Los Angeles began arranging a benefit called the Commitment to Life dinner which had the goal of raising $1 million to fund a cure for AIDS. Originally the event been scheduled in the small Century Plaza Hotel ballroom, but in July 1985 Hudson announced that he had AIDS and endorsed the event, greatly increasing notoriety of the event and necessitating a change in venue to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. On 19 September 1985 many top Hollywood personalities including Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley attended performances by Carol Burnett, Sammy Davis Jr., Rod Stewart, Cyndi Lauper, Diahann Carroll and others.
American basketball player Magic Johnson announced on 7 November 1991 that he had HIV. This announcement raised awareness among black people that HIV was a problem and it also highlighted that HIV could be transmitted through heterosexual sex.
Johnson's announcement resulted in a surge of Americans getting tested for HIV. A national conversation began when millions of people who had previously considered AIDS to be outside of their concern suddenly regarded the disease as a threat because a healthy male and public idol had contracted the infection.
Pedro Zamora was a Cuban American gay male who contracted HIV as a teenager, became an HIV activist, was a feature of MTV's television show the Real World, then died of AIDS at age 22 in 1994. He is notable as being a major public figure who contracted HIV and whose everyday life was well-documented in mass media. In 1993 he testified to the United States Congress on his experience, and stated that "If you want to reach me as a young gay man — especially a young gay man of color — then you need to give me information in a language and vocabulary I can understand and relate to." He is credited as being a particularly effective spokesperson for raising awareness about HIV in the Latino community.
Reports on cures
A baby born in Mississippi in 2013 was reported to have been cured of HIV, in that a cocktail of drugs resulted in remission without the need for further treatment, the HIV having ceased to replicate.
- Madhu, K.P.; Mia Malan, Nanna Engebretsen, Moneeza Hashmi, Prerna Sharma, Shane Etzenhouser (2009). "Getting the Story and Telling it Right: HIV on TV". United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO Series on Journalism Education): 6.
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- Hart 2000, p. 15-32.
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- Hart 2000, p. 15.
- Hart 2000, p. 35.
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- Hart 2000, p. 47.
- Hart 2000, p. 65, citing Sobnosky, Matthew J; Eric Hauser (1999). "Initiating or Avoiding Activism: Red Ribbons, Pink Triangles, and Public Argument About AIDS". In William N. Elwood. Power in the blood : a handbook on AIDS, politics, and communication. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum. pp. 25–38. ISBN 978-0805829068.
- Hart 2000, p. 67,76.
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- Gangcuangco, et al. http://www.tm.mahidol.ac.th/seameo/2013-44-5/10-5743-12.pdf
- Gangcuangco, et al. http://www.iasociety.org/Abstracts/A200739361.aspx
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- Pear, Robert (25 May 1983). "Health Chief Calls AIDS Battle 'No. 1 Priority'". New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
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- Engel, Jonathan (2006). The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS. United States: Smithsonian Books. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-06-114488-2. The reference literally says, "in nearly a century, but this must mean since the flu pandemic".
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- Steenhuysen, Julie. "U.S. baby's HIV infection cured through very early treatment". Reuters. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- Sample, Ian. "US doctors cure child born with HIV". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- Neergaard, Lauran. "Baby Born With HIV Apparently Cured, Say Scientists". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- Knox, Richard. "Scientists Report First Cure of HIV In A Child, Say It's A Game-Changer". NPR. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- Szabo, Liz. "Doctors report first cure of HIV in a child". USA Today. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- "BBC News - US HIV baby 'cured' by early drug treatment". BBC Online. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- "Toddler ‘Functionally Cured’ of HIV Infection, NIH-Supported Investigators Report". NIAID. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- Hart, Kylo-Patrick R. (2000). The AIDS movie : representing a pandemic in film and television. New York [u.a.]: Haworth. ISBN 07890-1107-7.