HIV on TV: Exploring Audience Response

Date: January 1, 1970
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As the HIV epidemic persists in the United States, the television broadcast industry also continues to represent this biosocial phenomenon in various realms, including fictional dramatic storylines within entertainment based shows. Following a cultural studies approach, this research project considers TV stories and images, as well as the various ways that audiences consume these messages, as worthy of sociological investigation. Specifically, this project addresses how gay and bisexual undergraduate males make sense of the fictional story of an HIV serodiscordant gay couple struggling to negotiate their romantic relationship in light of sharp opposition from friends and family. In small focus groups, study participants watched and discussed this HIV storyline from the premium cable series, Queer as Folk. These rich conversations provide detailed attention to the sexual attitudes of these young men, their opinions of this televised depiction of HIV, including the “safe sexÀ message they perceived it to be imparting, as well as their fears and misunderstandings about HIV, in general. In addition to gaining a better understanding of how some gay audiences consume these HIV related stories and incorporate them into their own lives, these findings illuminate the possibilities for HIV prevention through fictional television stories which appeal to queer audiences and the usefulness of holding safe space groups to promote HIV awareness.

Publisher: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Atlanta Hilton Hotel, Atlanta, GA, Aug 16, 2003
Year of Publication: 2003

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