Causa-mortis: sex, gender, race, and ethnic disparities in AIDS obituaries in the US: 1982-2000
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Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1395
There continue to be disparities in post-mortem descriptions of human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS) deaths among homosexual men, lesbians, and trans people. In this research, we examined AIDS obituary records in the United States from 1982 to 2000, considering sex, gender, and racial/ethnic differences. To understand how the causes of death were recorded in obituaries of individuals who had died from HIV-AIDS complications, we studied two lesbian, gay, and transgender (LGT) obituary collections: (i) the obituaries from the Bay Area Reporter and (ii) the AIDS archive from the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library. Five-thousand-three-hundred-eighty obituaries were extracted. Studying how AIDS deaths were publicised in the press, the intersectional analysis of sex, gender, race, and ethnicity showed that there were continuing inequalities in how post-mortem transcripts were publicised in obituaries in the 1980s and 1990s. Although the cause of death in AIDS obituaries of white homosexual men (n = 4140; 94.20%) was mostly informed by the generic term “cancer” – and its euphemisms and variations – among African Americans (n = 465; 85.30%) and Latino (n = 145; 87.90%) homosexual men, the cause of death transcript from “complications resulting from AIDS” was more prevalent. The obituaries, produced mostly by family members, friends, partners, and journalists, also showed how stigmatised communities learned to name the disease and portrayed it using the current pathological language. Not coincidentally, the more direct transcripts that pointed to the term “AIDS” were more prevalent in the obituaries of people racialised by colour, provenance, and social origin.