Presented at the 4th Annual Sooner Communicatiosn Conference, Oklahoma University, Norman, April 3, 1993.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Douglas Swanson was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
To address a need for increased discussion of the dangers of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and an increased educative effort to prevent people from acquiring HIV infection, a study investigated one element of an AIDS campaign of the past: the "America Responds to AIDS" television and radio public service announcements (PSAs). Taking into account the political climate in which the PSAs were produced, 22 English-language television PSAs and 22 English-language radio PSAs were examined using traditional rhetorical analysis (characterizations, verbiage, tone, etc.) and a textualist approach (establishment of enabled and disabled powers, individuals, and phenomena as identified through the discourse). Analysis showed that "America Responds to AIDS" PSAs produced between 1987 and 1992 supported conservative philosophies by stereotyping male carriers and female victims, using inexplicit terminology, employing fear appeals, blocking access to helpful information with a government gatekeeper, and empowering AIDS as a social rather than a medical problem. The PSAs supported traditional family and social relationships, denied homosexuals and other disenfranchised groups a voice in the fight against the disease, and failed to address specific behavioral changes which are needed if the spread of HIV infection and AIDS are to be controlled. Findings suggest that if the government hopes to educate people about the issues surrounding AIDS and its consequences to society, it needs to examine past mistakes and see that they are not repeated. (Includes one table of data; contains 50 references.) (NKA)
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