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Selected Writings on HIV/AIDS

by Simon Watney

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8223-1553-X
Publisher: Duke Univ.

Thoughtful, though too often meandering and dry, meditations on the cultural and political response to HIV/AIDS in the US and Great Britain. Watney (Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS, and the Media, not reviewed) is an experienced professional in the field of HIV education and has written a monthly column on HIV/AIDS for London's Gay Times; this volume collects pieces written between 1986 and 1992. Watney critiques moralistic, homophobic responses to the epidemic, from victim-blaming to failure to acknowledge the disproportionate effect of the disease on gay men (in both the UK and the US) to unrealistic and unhelpful prescriptions of abstinence or monogamy. He argues that HIV/AIDS education must focus on ``safe sex'' and must embrace gay pride, sexual desire, and community. Watney has done academic work in cultural theory, which usefully informs his analyses of media constructions of the epidemic, especially his article on the racist implications of the press's obsession with the non-Western origins of AIDS. Unfortunately, some of his writing is weighed down by a dense, occasionally almost impenetrable writing style; his shorter pieces, most of which were first published in nonacademic gay publications, are much more readable. Watney can also be far-fetched in his theoretical flights, musing at one point that, for straight people, HIV implies a ``physical relationship with the bodies of gay men or people of color. Dread of HIV infection thus speaks an excessive fear of transgressing profound social and psychic boundaries that evidently stabilize...heterosexual identity''—hardly the soundest explanation for collective terror of a fatal disease for which there is still no known cure. Some worthy analysis, but far more jargon-ridden than the complexity of Watney's ideas merits.