Rereading the newspapers: an ealry AIDS debate in Natal
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The Natal Witness newspaper published a total of 1 248 different issues within a period of four years, between the 1 January 1987 and 30 December 1990. Those daily news issues included a total of 266 AIDS-related articles. The word “AIDS” featured in the titles of all these articles. The articles were not uniformly distributed over the years. The first year (1987) had the highest number of AIDS articles (101) whereas the third year (1989) had the least (39). A literary historical study conducted on these articles not only revealed that a debate was going on but also unearthed particular issues and subjects that underpinned that debate. These included fears, myths, outstanding happenings, opinions, as well as statistical reports. The mood, attitudes, and the controversies surrounding the AIDS disease in those early years were reflected in the articles as well. The perspective on the AIDS debate in the first year (1987) was predominantly international. The second year’s discussions (1988) seemed to draw attention to what was happening on the African continent. As the debate became more localised, more attention was given to the country of South Africa in the third year (1989). The fourth year’s debate (1990) focused on the province of Natal. Not only were the churches and the government put in the spotlight in the four years’ debate but sensitive subjects like racial suspicion in the apartheid context seemed to underpin the discussions.