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AIDS and the Increased Visibility of Homosexuality in Television Entertainment Programming Written for The Paper Store, Inc.

by May Hall 3/2000 Over the course of the last two decades, an increased awareness of the HIV virus and AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, has opened the doors to national debates on human sexuality, homosexuality and the moral and social dilemma's raised by this disease. The prevalence of the disease worldwide and the increasing focus on alternative lifestyles that has resulted from the international viewpoints has determined an increase in visibility for gay lifestyles in the television industry. Increases in the number of gay and lesbian actors, directors, and the introduction of gay lifestyles as a component of television programming have become almost common place. Some critics have argued that the AIDS epidemic has determine a greater acceptability to gay and lesbian lifestyles on television than to depiction's of ethnic minorities, including Latinos.

A number of studies have been conducted that relate the belief that more and more gays and lesbians are "coming out" in the television industry, and a non-linear correlation can be made between the emergence of AIDS education and television programming in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the increased visibility for gays and lesbians. In fact, television programming determined the acceptability of bringing the AIDS problem into the American household, and this set the stage for a continual discussion of the issues that surround this problem, including illegal drug use and the gay lifestyle. What is interesting to note is that even though the AIDS problem has continued to progress, the overall perspective on AIDS has declined and its social significance has been reduced because of the over familiarity with the subject. Over twice as many people have been infected with HIV than was projected in the early 1990s; over 42 million people have been infected since the discovery of the virus and 30.6 million people are currently living with HIV and AIDS (AIDS Weekly Plus, 1997). In 1997 alone, over 5.8 million people globally have been newly infected with HIV, which can be broken down into nearly 16,000 new infections per day (AIDS Weekly Plus, 1997).