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Movement, Knowledge, Emotion

Movement, Knowledge, Emotion: Gay activism and HIV/AIDS in Australia

Jennifer Power
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Movement, Knowledge, Emotion
    Book Description:

    This book is about community activism around HIV/AIDS in Australia. It looks at the role that the gay community played in the social, medical and political response to the virus. Drawing conclusions about the cultural impact of social movements, the author argues that AIDS activism contributed to improving social attitudes towards gay men and lesbians in Australia, while also challenging some entrenched cultural patterns of the Australian medical system, allowing greater scope for non-medical intervention into the domain of health and illness. The book documents an important chapter in the history of public health in Australia and explores how HIV/AIDS came to be a defining issue in the history of gay and lesbian rights in Australia.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-39-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) entered the public arena as a ‘mystery disease’ for which there was no known cause and no cure. Concerns that this unknown killer would sweep rapidly across whole populations provided it with media and political attention few medical conditions receive. But more significantly, AIDS achieved rapid infamy through its association with a set of social and sexual practices considered by many to be deviant and highly immoral: homosexuality, illicit drug use and prostitution.

    In May 1983, doctors from St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney announced that the first known case of AIDS in Australia had been...

  5. Part One: Fear and Morality

    • 1. The ‘Homosexual Cancer’: AIDS = gay
      (pp. 31-58)

      Reports about a lethal mystery disease began trickling into mainstream Australian media by mid-1982, some months before the first Australian case would be diagnosed. The reports told of an increasing number of unexplainable cases of Karposi’s sarcoma and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) among young gay men in America. Both these illnesses are relatively rare and indicative of problems with the body’s immune system. What doctors could not explain was why so many previously healthy young men were presenting with damaged immune systems. They also could not explain why nearly all these young men seemed to be gay.¹

      Before HIV was...

    • 2. Innocent Identities
      (pp. 59-80)

      Despite the increasing public profile of the AIDS councils across the country, the capacity of the AIDS movement to challenge anti-gay sentiment that surfaced in response to AIDS was continually tested throughout the course of the 1980s and 1990s. As increasing numbers of heterosexual people acquired the virus, the way in which images about people with AIDS were constructed in public dialogue became an issue that threatened to entrench further the view that gay men were to be blamed for HIV/AIDS. People who had acquired the virus through the blood supply or blood products (a condition generally referred to as...

  6. Part Two: (Mis)trust and Medicine

    • 3. Public Health and AIDS Activism
      (pp. 83-110)

      A lot of the work of the AIDS movement in the 1980s was about the way in which HIV/AIDS and the people most affected by it were defined and the steps that needed to be taken to address AIDS. This work was done in conjunction with a range of other individuals and organisations with an interest in HIV/AIDS—most notably from within the Government and the medical profession. Kevin White and Evan Willis argue that there were three core groups competing to ‘enforce their definition of the (HIV/AIDS) situation’.¹ The first of these groups was the ‘inner circle’ of doctors,...

    • 4. Treatment Action
      (pp. 111-142)

      The first hope of a possible course of treatment for HIV came in the second half of the 1980s. Azidothymidine or Zidovudine (AZT) was originally developed in the 1960s for the treatment of cancer. In 1986, however, US researchers announced that it would begin to be trialled as a potential antiviral medication for HIV. This was the first clinical therapy to be developed for HIV. Before this, the only available treatment had been for AIDS-related conditions, such as antibiotics for infections. Nothing until this point had promised the possibility of forestalling the damage caused by HIV to the body’s immune...

  7. Part Three: Grief and Activism

    • 5. Rites of Belonging: The AIDS Memorial Quilt
      (pp. 145-158)

      Each year in Australia, and throughout the Western world, candlelight memorials are held in remembrance of people who have died from AIDS. These memorials and solemn and silent processions followed by a vigil are often accompanied by a public reading of names of people who have died from AIDS.

      Inaugurated in this country by AIDS activist Phil Carswell and a nurse at the Melbourne Communicable Diseases Centre, Tom Carter, the first Australian candlelight memorial was held in 1985 when these two men stood silently with lit candles in a Melbourne city square. From this, the event grew in magnitude and...

  8. Epilogue: Bug Chasers and Criminals
    (pp. 159-166)

    Large-scale or unpredictable events can rupture social convention and change people’s attitudes towards the world. Everyday modes of being—the habits, customs and patterns of thought that frame our everyday existence—are rarely questioned unless something happens to disrupt them or expose their arbitrariness. Pierre Bourdieu described as ‘doxa’ the framework of knowledge through which we think. Doxa is not a reference to the conscious ideas that we have or the particular arguments and thoughts that fill our conversation, but the underlying assumptions that inform and structure our ways of thinking. That which is in the realm of doxa is...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-196)
  10. Biographies of Interviewees
    (pp. 197-200)
  11. Index
    (pp. 201-206)