If It Bleeds, It Leads?: American Media Coverage of the African AIDS Epidemic
The AIDS epidemic has affected every country on every continent in the world. Since the early 1980s, over 25 million people have died of the disease, and prevalence rates have exploded. AIDS is one of the signature events of our time, and to fight it, we must understand it. This thesis uncovers how the American media constructs the African AIDS epidemic for an American audience with little first hand knowledge of either Africa or the epidemic. Taking metaphor and stigma theories as a theoretical framework, the picture of Africa which emerges from American media coverage is one of a continent and a people thoroughly beaten down by events seemingly beyond their control. This study explores how journalistic use of metaphor, story structure and word choice contribute to the perpetual victimization and stigmatization of individual Africans, and more broadly, entire African countries. In the end, my analysis shows that media coverage of the African AIDS epidemic has remained largely static. Predominantly, the use of metaphors of war to highlight the threat posed by AIDS and the physical descriptions of African patients remain stable throughout this study's twenty-year span. Similarly, journalists continue to stigmatize African AIDS patients by constructing them as "the other," a thing of which we ought to be frightened. Further, my analysis provides some, albeit sparse, evidence that there has recently been a shift toward a more collaborative and understanding view of African AIDS patients.
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