The arrival of AIDS in the United States in the eighties called for political action. According to The Journal of Health Communication in 2001, the Reagan administration saw fit to use television as the preferred medium to combat the spread of the new disease in America. The use of commercials continued through the Clinton years. Television was determined responsible for 72% of the public’s knowledge of AIDS. The message was conveyed in 30 to 60-second commercial segments, and was confined to facts about the disease. These commercials were produced under the oversight of the center for Disease Control. In considering the information provided in the Dejong report in the context of Elizabeth Pizani’s TED talk of 2010 and the AACC Research Brief on AIDS, important omissions, or missteps come to the fore.
Pizani emphasizes the high degree to which homosexual men are susceptible to AIDS, yet from the Reagan through Clinton administrations, only 4% of the public service announcements targeted homosexuals. Young people have the highest rates of infection, but less than 12% of the PSAs were directed specifically to people under 21.
It should be noted that Pizani had the advantage of time, and therefore evolving attitudes, on her side. But the contrast of the two presentations illustrates a government that was grossly out of touch, or unwilling to confront a touchy political issue at the expense of the lives of its citizens.