Wright, Kai
March 2004
Columbia Journalism Review;Mar/Apr2004, Vol. 42 Issue 6, p5
This article discusses how sensational reports overshadow the real story of the AIDS epidemic. HIV is on the rise among gay men, infections increased 17 percent between 1999 and 2002. The problem is that increase is driven by infections among low-and middle-income African Americans. Those infections are most likely the result of serial monogamy within small social circles where HIV is already present. A study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation illustrates how the AIDS story has been driven by a series of big, attention-grabbing events. In the early years, it was the effect on the blood supply and debate over bathhouses in San Francisco, California being shut down. Next came the public infections of Rock Hudson and Magic Johnson, followed by the discovery of the drugs that have prevented death for so many people and finally by the AIDS devastation in Africa. The Kaiser study did not analyze how much the story of the time colored how life with HIV was depicted but it offered a disturbing hint at what this approach misses. Overall, only 3 percent of stories focused on U.S. minorities. African Americans account for half of all new infections every year, but they have rarely been involved in the epidemic's high drama. To be fair, the quest for a dramatic story angle goes beyond journalism.


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