HIV/AIDS: Social Policies and Programs
Early Crisis, Moral Panic: The 1980s
Lecture 3: September 30, 2011
When societies rethink idea of ownership, 1980s, ripe conditions for breeding prejudice against
unpopular groups lacking human groups
1983: Pat Buchanan, Communications Director for President Ronald Reagan, calls AIDS, first identified in
1981, "nature's revenge on gay men." - Public statements of high ranking officials example today this
would not be said
- Early reactions http://www.oprah.com/health/The-AIDS-Epidemic-in-Small-Town-America-
Video_1 Disease of nature Doctor trying to give facts, clash of moral ideology against
scientific evidence, someone saying they want the facts (in West Virginia) vs. strong moral
reactions based on peoples individual moral ideas of what is appropriate
- Explore early reactions to HIV (1980s)
- To explore the cultural phenomenon of blame in relation to illness blame and disease go
hand in hand Healthism big part- moral valance attached to good health vs. those who fail
who have bad health in terms of AIDS they failed in who they were or who they chose to love or
what drugs they chose to put in bodies
- To understand the impact of cultural ideas about morality and moral panic on the HIV
epidemic- how they shifted in early 80s from religious (US) to one based on neoliberalism
(appropriate ways of looking after ones health)
- Morality and health look very complex now, religious things build in and also neo-liberalism
- Moral Panic- what happened in the 80s
How many of you:
- Have had one too many drinks and got behind the steering wheel?
- Have not used a seatbelt?
- Have smoked pot and drove your car?
- What do we say about people who do these things?
o Irresponsible, do we ask why or simply arrive right away at our decision?
o What about when someone gets 4 abortions- harder to say - CBC UK broadcast, should government pay for costs for those who suffer from disease resulting
from smoking complicated relationship between smoking and cancer (Social determinants of
- MORALITY AND HEALTH ARE FUSED, difficult to pull apart ex. Mad at self for not going to gym,
or skinny woman in line looking at a muffin
When someone gets HIV.....
What do we ask about them?
How did you get it?
What do we assume about them?
Why are there such intense reactions to HIV?
Casual contact could spread HIV?
Affected a marginalized group at first, with which little was known about (homosexual
men, drug users- those who were unpopular)
Alan Brandt asks
Who gets sick and why?
AIDS and gay men not thought about before or if did were quick to condemn gay men like never before
Whats underneath the questions who gets sick and why?
3 things behind question according to Brandt:
1. Powerful cultural values
2. Deep moral and philosophical ideals (Ex. Oprah clip shows irrational fear- doctor mistaken
saying getting AIDS from public pool vs. those who refuse to listen to doctor based on moral
ideas about right kinds of behavior in society)
3. NB social and political ideologies
Has a disease ever been so moralized as AIDS?
http://archives.cbc.ca/health/public_health/clips/4563/ (2:30) public fear instigated by Right Wingers,
re-criminalization spoke of mass murderers, AIDS demise of Western civilization Reverend Jerry
Falwell 3 point plan to protect society from AIDS: closing down homosexual bath houses Tangible proof of societies moral decay shows how AIDS linked to abortion, promiscuity moral issues fuse selves
together in these early reactions!
Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007 Pew Research Center polls Americans
Question posed as laid out above
2007- Public fear decreases with harsh attitudes What would it say if asked in Canada? IT was
significantly less (6%)- we are far less religious society and religiosity in Canada tends to be private vs. in
America where it is more public.
Nashville- 50-100 praying in staff room before lunch (ex. Given by Travers) worst possible thing if child
told parent not a Christian
Sponsor A Message
Reinforcing America's Core Values, One Billboard At A Time The Punishment Theory of Disease
1. employs a moral concept of blame or responsibility * - morality infused with responsibility
2. based on religious or secular forms of morality (Secular based on lifestyle, new-ism)
- What did I do to deserve this?
- What did s/he do to get this?
- Religious- purist dominated first half of 80s, US, not same kind of talk in Canada. Canada
looked to more promiscuous explanations, not religious
- Was he fat, did he smoke? High blood pressure? reflect some formal belief system
about what produces ill health (more secular version)
- Modified religious mother of gay son goes on radio station (Winnipeg) pleading for
people to be understanding, said to radio announcer I wonder what I did so badly to
- People blame people for ill health, we all do it!
Punishment theory applied to HIV/AIDS
4 challenges (in addition to Kopelmans):
establishes innocent versus guilty discourse
80s this was very popular, gay men and drug users seen as guilty because they were
seen to bring it upon themselves, innocent (blood injection)
encourages victim blaming
fails to take into account cultural, political and socioeconomic factors behind disease