The media are judged to have played a crucial role in determining successive governments' response to AIDS. Berridge (1992) points out that the media have always played a role in the construction and presentation of disease, but AIDS figured prominently in media coverage throughout the 1980s: AIDS was the first 'media disease' (Street 1988). It was widely reported in news broadcasts, newspapers, television documentaries as well as soap operas and people identified television and the press as their most important source of information about the disease. Many people living with HIV and AIDS have testified to the impact of media coverage on their lives. Norman Fowler, Secretary of State for Health during the height of the crisis, has spoken of the 'magnificent' efforts of the media as part of the government's campaign to educate the public about AIDS. For Berridge there is an evident correlation between the media treatment of the disease and the development of AIDS policy (1992:16). In particular, the media played a 'critical role in generating a growing sense of crisis and in focussing on issues with which the government and their advisors had to deal' (Strong and Berridge 1990:247). But this assessment has proved contentious. Fox, Day and Klein (1989) argue that the influence of the media on policy makers was minimal. Ministers and civil servants were able to make policy on the basis of rational needs and professional advice in the face of the growing hysteria of the mass media.
This chapter explores two related aspects of the media's role in shaping policy on AIDS-and in helping people to learn about the disease. First, the media response to AIDS is examined; this response was not homogeneous. There were obvious differences between particular media, but even within the press and television it is possible to identify a number of agendas and attitudes. A struggle took place inside media organisations, between editors and reporters and crucially between specialist correspondents and general reporters, about rival ways in which to frame the understanding of the disease. The outcome of this struggle assumed different forms in the various news organisations. Consequently, public understanding and policy makers' perceptions of AIDS were shaped by a range of media accounts of the disease.
A second aspect of the connection between the media and policy concerns