Social Representations of AIDS: Pictures in Abnormal Psychology Textbooks, 1984–20051


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    An earlier version of this report was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, June 2002, New Orleans, LA.

Thomas J. Schoeneman, Department of Psychology, Lewis & Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road, Portland, OR 97219. E-mail:


We identified 129 pictures relating to AIDS/HIV in 94 abnormal psychology textbooks published between 1984 and 2005. Pictures included 189 persons with AIDS/HIV status or risk and 134 AIDS-related objects; they appeared in chapters on stress, sexual issues, substance abuse, and organic brain disorders. Individuals depicted were overwhelmingly male, White, adult, of unspecified sexual orientation, and undiagnosed with mental disorder. The most frequent AIDS-related objects were signs and posters, hospital furnishings, and drug paraphernalia. Thematic motifs across pictures included patient, information source, junkie, support group, celebrity, child victim, protesters, memorials, condom dispensary, and viral attack. Images of AIDS continue to invoke concepts of “the Other,” death, victimization, and culpability. It is difficult to discuss AIDS without accessing its stereotypes.