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date: 28 September 2023

HIV/AIDS: The Queer Communication of HIV in the LGBTQ Communitylocked

HIV/AIDS: The Queer Communication of HIV in the LGBTQ Communitylocked

  • Andrew R. SpieldennerAndrew R. SpieldennerCommunication Department, California State University, San Marcos
  •  and Bolivar X. NietoBolivar X. NietoCollege of Arts, Science, & Education, Florida International University


After four decades of living, organizing, and even dying in the HIV epidemic, individuals, communities, and institutions have been disrupted. The disease that would become known as HIV was first diagnosed among gay men in Los Angeles and New York in 1983. The epidemic in the United States began in a few communities—gay and bisexual men, trans people, injection drug users, hemophiliacs, and Haitian immigrants—all communities already stigmatized in society. The lack of knowledge, scientific research, and effective treatment fueled a new kind of stigma focused on HIV as a disease and the assumption of HIV infection. Community organizing—especially in those groups first identified in HIV—would provide life-saving services, community centers, and advocacy before governments would respond. HIV became a global pandemic revealing vast differences in health infrastructures and access to medicines. The emergence of effective HIV treatment began a different narrative about the disease—from automatic death to addressing how to live and age with the disease. The institutionalization of the HIV industry, which includes community activists, health care clinics, pharmaceutical companies, and governments, has been vital to firming up health services and advocacy groups. The impact of HIV on queer communication has stretched across understandings of health, community, organizations, and policies. In addition, HIV has made more visible queer practices of the body, disability, and dying in particular contrast to middle-class, hetero, White, cisgender, and able-bodied expectations.


  • Gender (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies)

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