"LOOK PRETTY AND DO AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE": AN ANALYSIS OF THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION'S RESPONSE TO THE AIDS CRISIS

Open Access
Author:
Kavanagh, Christine
Area of Honors:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Stephen Howard Browne, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lori Ann Bedell, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • AIDS
  • Reagan
  • Communication
  • Media
  • Activism
  • 1980s
Abstract:
This thesis explores how the Reagan Administration handled the AIDS crisis during the epidemic’s formative years between 1981 and 1985. It seeks to prove how a previously unknown disease that killed over 20,000 Americans in less than five years was allowed to go unaddressed by the president for so long and why this indifference was detrimental to the fight against AIDS. By identifying the communicative failures and external circumstances that led to a perfect storm of systemic political apathy, we can recognize past mistakes in order to ensure that they never have to happen again. Overall, this thesis aims to present the egregious circumstances that allowed one of the largest epidemics in American history to go unchecked for so long. The failure of the Reagan Administration to properly convey the severity of the epidemic to the American people indicates just how important communication within power relationships is. It explores how shortsighted prejudices such as homophobia, especially when held by those in power, can have disastrous effects that can impact the entire world.