African American Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Responses

By Dorie J. Gilbert; Ednita M. Wright | Go to book overview

IV
Community and Policy Action: A Call to Action

Clearly, it is time for critical responses to the alarming loss that is ravaging African
American communities. Throughout the two-decade history of HIV and AIDS in
this country, preexisting concepts, paradigms, and societal constructions of those
groups primarily affected by HIV and AIDS have shaped the public policy response
over the changing course of the epidemic. The fact that AIDS was initially linked
to gay males and now is having a devastating effect on populations who have been
historically disempowered sets the background for examining AIDS activism and
social policy legislation related to the epidemic.

Schneider and Ingram (1993) proposed that the [social construction of target populations] in society is based on the target population's social construction and level of political power, and these constructions influence the distribution of policy benefits or policy burdens (negative consequences of policy action or inaction) among different groups. Social constructions of target populations are [stereotypes about particular groups of people that have been created by politics, culture, socialization, history, the media, literature, religion, and the like] (335). The authors theorize that politically powerful, positively constructed target populations receive more policy benefits over policy burdens as compared with politically weak, negatively constructed groups, based on the following four categories:

Advantaged target populations are positively constructed and politically powerful, and
therefore this group is most likely to receive policy benefits

Contenders target populations are politically powerful yet negatively constructed. This
group receives benefits when largesse is concealed but public opinion may drive policy
makers to inflict policy burdens when public interest is high and unfavorable toward the
group.

-201-

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