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Social responses to HIV: Fearing the outlaw

Abstract

This paper examines the role mass media play during trials of persons who knowingly transmit HIV in constituting individual HIV-positive persons as archetypes of deviancy or criminality, dangerous not only to the persons they are charged with harming but also to all members of society. The essay reviews academic contributions to the analysis of AIDS media representations that emerged in the late 1980s and then applies that work to two very different cases: a Canadian charged with knowingly sexually transmitting HIV and an American prisoner charged with biting and spitting on prison guards. While the two cases represent extremes in terms of the probability of enabling HIV transmission, they are strikingly similar in the logic and rhetoric through which both the individual charged comes to represent all persons with HIV and those who are said to be victimized come to represent the general public.

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Correspondence to Mary S. Petty.

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Petty, M.S. Social responses to HIV: Fearing the outlaw. Sex Res Soc Policy 2, 76 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2005.2.2.76

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/srsp.2005.2.2.76

Key words

  • heterosexual transmission
  • prison
  • nonsexual transmission of HIV
  • cultural stereotypes
  • policy