Social responses to HIV: Fearing the outlaw

Article

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.

Key words

heterosexual transmission prison nonsexual transmission of HIV cultural stereotypes policy 

References

  1. Brady, W. (1993, November 9). ACLU says AIDS law too vague. Chicago Tribune, p. A1.Google Scholar
  2. Brandt, A. M. (1985). No magic bullet: A social history of venereal disease in the United States since 1880. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Broderick, F. (1990, May 28). HIV+ prisoner sentenced on attempted murder conviction for biting. Au Courant, p. 14.Google Scholar
  4. Crimp, D. (1988). Cultural analysis, cultural activism. Introduction in D. Crimp (Ed.), AIDS: Cultural analysis, cultural activism (pp. 3–16). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Gammage, J., & Marder, D. (1989). When inmates attack with AIDS as a weapon. The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. A1.Google Scholar
  6. Grover, J. Z. (1988). AIDS: Keywords. In D. Crimp (Ed.), AIDS: Cultural analysis, cultural activism (pp. 17–30). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Hall, S. (1993). Media and deviancy. In H. Abelove, M. Barale, & D. Halperin (Eds.), The lesbian and gay studies reader (pp. 44–68). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Hoare, E. (1988a, September 24). Warrant out for AIDS carrier. The Chronicle-Herald, p. A1.Google Scholar
  9. Hoare, E. (1988b, September 27). Wentzell held on negligence charge. The Chronicle-Herald, pp. A1–A2.Google Scholar
  10. Hoare, E. (1988c, October 1). Crown to fight Wentzell’s release. The Chronicle-Herald, p. A1.Google Scholar
  11. Illinois Criminal Code. (1989). Sec. 12/2-16.2 Criminal Transmission of HIV. § 720 ILCS 5/12-16.2.Google Scholar
  12. Illinois Supreme Court. (1994, January 20). People v. Russell (Docket no. 73721) and People v. Lunsford (Docket No. 74443) (consolidated).Google Scholar
  13. Jennings, J. W., & Thompson, N. (1989, June 14). N.J. prisoner who has AIDS virus charged after biting jail officer. The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. B7.Google Scholar
  14. Kwiatt, K. (1991). The Illinois HIV transmission statute: Unconstitutionally vague or politically vogue? Criminal Law Bulletin, 483–503.Google Scholar
  15. Le Pierres, L. (1988, September 23). Quarantine powers sought to cover AIDS carriers. The Chronicle-Herald, pp. A1–A2.Google Scholar
  16. Madill, D. (1988a, September 19). AIDS fiend strikes again. The Chronicle-Herald, pp. A1–A2.Google Scholar
  17. Madill, D. (1988b, September 20). No arrest warrant for AIDS carrier. The Chronicle-Herald, pp. A1–A2.Google Scholar
  18. Marder, D. (1989, November 4). AIDS carrier indicted in bite threat. The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. B04.Google Scholar
  19. Marder, D. (1990, May 27). Prosecutor says AIDS inmate, charged with biting, had made threat. The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. B4.Google Scholar
  20. New Jersey v. Smith, Nos. 2114-8-89,I-2890-11-89, N.J. Super, a., Camden City, NJ.Google Scholar
  21. O’Brien, E. (1990a, April 4). AIDS inmate is tried in biting. The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. B4.Google Scholar
  22. O’Brien, E. (1990b, April 12). AIDS-infected inmate guilty of attempted murder. The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. B1.Google Scholar
  23. O’Brien, E. (1990c, May 19). Inmate gets 25 years for biting guard. The Philadelphia Inquirer, p. A1.Google Scholar
  24. Patton, C. (1990). Inventing AIDS. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Silversides, A. (2003). AIDS activist: Michael Lynch and the politics of community. Toronto, Canada: Between the Lines.Google Scholar
  26. Sonnichsen, D-M. (1989a, September 9). AIDS carrier pleads guilty to charge of criminal negligence. The Chronicle-Herald, pp. A1–A2.Google Scholar
  27. Sonnichsen, D-M. (1989b, September 12). Wentzell gets 3 years for infecting woman with AIDS virus. The Chronicle-Herald, pp. A1–A2.Google Scholar
  28. Sullivan, J. F. (1990, May 19). AIDS-infected prisoner receives 25 years for biting a jail guard. New York Times, p. 25.Google Scholar
  29. Sullivan, J. F. (1993, February 18). Inmate with H.I.V. who bit guard loses appeal. New York Times, p. B7.Google Scholar
  30. Treichler, P. A. (1987). AIDS, homophobia, and biomedical discourse: An epidemic of signification. Cultural Studies, 1(3), 263–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Watney, S. (1988). The spectacle of AIDS. In D. Crimp (Ed.), AIDS: Cultural analysis, cultural activism (pp. 71–86). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer New York 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WorkSt. Paul’s HospitalVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations