Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Met

Susan Sontag, Author
Susan Sontag, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $14.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-10257-9
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
In Illness as Metaphor , which focused on cancer, Sontag argued that the myths and metaphors surrounding disease can kill by instilling shame and guilt in the sick, thus delaying them from seeking treatment. She sees a similar process at work in the case of AIDS, the modern epidemic that has called forth metaphors of plague, implacable viral invaders, a scourge from the Third World. Such metaphors foster the stigmatizing of AIDS patients while spreading misinformation and panic, she argues, further claiming that clinical reports on the course of AIDS from ``fledgling'' to ``full-blown'' tacitly support the far-from-proven theory that everyone who tests positive for the AIDS antibody will die of the diease. The theory that AIDS originated in Africa, also unproven, feeds into the West's political paranoia and activates racial and sexual stereotypes. Regrettably, Sontag all but ignores intravenous drug users stricken with AIDS, and her curt dismissal of alternative therapies is shortsighted. Though some of her key points are already standard features of public discourse, this brief, brilliant essay discounts many of the fears and illusions surrounding the pandemic. (Jan.)
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