December 1 is the 29th annual World AIDS Day, first commemorated by the World Health Organization way back in 1988 when nearly 5,000 Americans perished in the epidemic — at its peak in 1995, ten times as many people died in the U.S. alone. AIDS at the time particularly affected queer populations in large cities, which presented media outlets with a unique challenge: how to sympathetically report on an epidemic that largely affected people that middle America regarded as deviants and criminals. This collection below shows how national newspapers met that challenge.
While Tabloids profited from the deaths of 50s heartthrob Rock Hudson, flamboyant entertainer Liberace, Brady Bunch dad Robert Reed and tennis phenom Arthur Ashe, more reputable papers tried to focus on stories like that of Ryan White, a hemophiliac child who drew national attention after he was given an HIV-infected blood transfusion.
The Tumblr commiepinkofag provides a great resource for queer history. Run by Oregon-based artist Brent Pruitt, the site takes an arts-focused look at gay male history, from the mid-century indecency raids in Miami and Los Angeles to recent news from Singapore. Lately Pruitt’s been focusing largely on newspaper clippings about AIDS, and he’s pulled together a fascinating glance at the history of the disease, but also of the media’s ability to talk about it.
In chronological order, here’s a sampling of his news archive about AIDS, with sources ranging from the New York Times to the Singapore Straits Times to the Weekly World News.