The "gay plague" revisited: AIDS and its enduring moral panic

Published: January 1, 2009

 This chapter re-visit the moral panic that has surrounded HIV/AIDS since the pandemic began. It

re-visits the positioning of homosexuality (and therefore gay men) at the heart of that panic

(originally argued by Simon Watney), and reviews the swing between an obsession with gay and

other homosexually active men and the neglect of them in public health responses ever since.

The chapter then questions the increasing international deployment of ‘homophobia’ as the social

and political explanation for the obsession-neglect swing, and uses examples from Australia, the

US as well as other places to explore to examine the politics of moral panics. Finally, the chapter

concludes with re-asserting the centrality of (male) homosexuality to the politics of the pandemic

even when gay men are not the issue at hand.

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