AIDS Is Again ‘Disease That Dare Not Speak Its Name,’ Opinion Piece Says
The initial media coverage of celebrity and fashion photographer Herb Ritts' death of AIDS-related causes last month, which did not fully mention why he died, indicates that "once again, [AIDS] is a disease that dare not speak its name," Michelangelo Signorile, former editor of the Advocate and author of "Queer in America" and "Life Outside," writes in a Long Island Newsday opinion piece. The New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and other media outlets quoted Ritts' publicist as saying that Ritts died of "complications from pneumonia." However, when staff from the Advocate asked Ritts' publicist for a "fuller explanation" of Ritts' cause of death, Ritts' publicist said that Ritts "was HIV-positive but that the pneumonia that contributed to his death was not PCP (pneumosystis pneumonia, a common opportunistic infection of AIDS)," adding, "But at the end of the day, his immune system was compromised." Signorile continues, "This isn't just another example of incomplete or deceptive reporting. It's also a tragic omission at a time when study after study shows unsafe sex and new infections continuing to rise steeply among younger generations of gay men, often because the realities of AIDS are abstract to them -- enough to allow them to take foolish risks." That is one reason why "the story behind the death of Herb Ritts ... would go a long way" toward educating this population, Signorile says. He concludes, "AIDS becomes increasingly invisible, on the streets as well as in the media, even as HIV infection is an ever-present danger. And clearly, though American fatalities have decreased a great deal, HIV still kills," adding, "The decline of AIDS awareness in the newsroom mirrors what was happened in society in general" as the disease is "driven ... back into the closet. ... And that silence has consequences" (Signorile, Long Island Newsday, 1/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.