According to a new report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, total media coverage of HIV/AIDS increased during the early 1980s, peaked in 1987, and declined steadily through 2001. The report also found that even as overall coverage of the epidemic in the U.S. waned, the amount of coverage with at least some global focus increased dramatically.
The report, AIDS at 21: Media Coverage of the HIV Epidemic 1981-2002 (8 pages, PDF), found that specific populations in the U.S. disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, such as gay men, teenagers and young adults, minorities, and women, were the focus of only a small portion of the news coverage, and that over time stories about HIV transmission and social issues such as discrimination and housing declined, while stories focusing on government funding for HIV/AIDS and philanthropic fundraising efforts increased. In general, the report noted, media coverage of HIV/AIDS reflected key events that occurred throughout the history of the epidemic, including the initial CDC reports about AIDS, the closing of San Francisco bathhouses, Magic Johnson's announcement that he was HIV positive, the introduction of protease inhibitors and antiretroviral therapy, and AIDS in Africa.
"In the United States, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has moved from being an absolute death sentence to more of a chronic disease and one with an increasing presence in minority communities," said Mollyann Brodie, vice president and director of public opinion and media research for the Kaiser Family Foundation. "The challenge for reporters interested in writing about HIV is to explore new news angles, and for those fighting the epidemic the challenge is to find new ways to tell the story."
To read or download an overview of the study, see: http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/7023.cfm.