Language, Rhetoric, and AIDS: The Attitudes and Strategies of Key AIDS Medical Scientists and Physicians

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This article examines the experiences and rhetorical actions of key medical scientists and physicians who have treated, studied, and written about Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome since the beginning of the epidemic. Those first to describe the disease report that the rhetorical challenge was convincing their audience to accept the novel idea of acquired immune deficiency and to see the cases they described as an emerging medical catastrophe. The biological, social, and linguistic complications of AIDS and the failure of traditional treatments forced the professionals interviewed to develop new care practices such as more horizontal communication with patients and a holistic view of a patient's needs. Responding to the need to educate and persuade peers and the public about appropriate actions in treating and preventing the disease, these professionals participated in rhetorical action that negotiated between “old” practices and attitudes and “new” problems that required changes in practice and attitudes.


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