Media Coverage of People with AIDS

Richard Wilson, John Carroll University

This essay examines the ethical dimensions of AIDS media coverage in the early 1980′s. Through critical analysis and application of Carol Gilligan’s ethic of care (1982), this essay dissects how media coverage in the early 1980′s reflected male-based ethics, which rely heavily upon notions of justice. Since AIDS first struck the male homosexual community, an already marginalized segment of society, coverage was minimal and in theory, the homosexual P.W.A.’s (People With AIDS) were “deserving” of the illness they received because of their non-traditional sexual behavior. The media’s choice to under-cover the AIDS epidemic clearly demonstrated adherence to justice-based ethics. Consequently, the lack of coverage resulted in the widespread proliferation of the AIDS epidemic in the United States that ultimately permeated the heterosexual community. The suggestion and proposition is made for media to operate under Gilligan’s care-based ethics as a solution to remedy past media damage. Furthermore, future application of care-based ethics would help to foster greater understanding, compassion, love and peace for all P.W.A’s, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.

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