What is it about?

Shows how methodologically unsound, stereotyped notions of 'the homosexual' shaped and influenced early AIDS research by examining articles from a leading medical journal.

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Why is it important?

The article shows the subjective, often discriminatory way in which gay men were constructed and represented at the start of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa and reveals how heteronormativity, conservative morality, and in some cases outright homophobia shaped understandings of, and responses to, the epidemic. The efforts by some authors to counter this narrative are also shown indicating that narratives may be hegemonic but are still challenged. Understanding how the subjective nature of research and researchers functions allows us to guard against repeating mistakes when the next health crises comes along.

Perspectives

The lives of LGBTI people have, historically, been overlooked or used to reinforce or reinscribe certain ideas of what constitutes the 'acceptable' or normative. I wrote this article to provide examples of this in relation to the AIDS crises in South Africa. The focus at the time of the epidemic was on gay men and lesbians, bisexual, intersex and transpeople were largely excluded - so there are still many untold histories that need to be written.

Dr Carla Tsampiras
University of Cape Town

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Not So ‘Gay’ After All – Constructing (Homo)sexuality in AIDS Research in the South African Medical Journal, 1980–1990, South African Historical Journal, September 2008, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/02582470802417532.
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