[Re]inventing Childhood in the Age of AIDS: The Representation of HIV Positive Identities to Children and Adolescents in Britain, 1983-1997

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Hannah Kershaw


[Re]inventing Childhood in the Age of AIDS: The Representation of HIV Positive Identities to Children and Adolescents in Britain, 1983-1997Hannah Elizabeth Kershaw, Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, 27/10/2016The advent of the AIDS crisis saw institutions previously tasked with educating adults about sexual health or children about 'the facts of life', thrust into the awkward and publicly prominent new role of sex educators to the nation. During the 1980s and 1990s, the parameters of public sexual health education and childhood were redrawn and AIDS as a disease was reframed from an acute to a chronic illness. In an atmosphere of utmost urgency, potential educators within and outside Whitehall shared and fought for the authority to produce HIV/AIDS and safer-sex education policy and material for under-eighteens while grappling with anxiety over presenting children with explicit content; circumnavigating or embracing prohibitions against the inclusion of any content on homosexuality; and constructing competing and conflicting ideas of the child as a vulnerable innocent or knowing agent. This thesis analyses how adults negotiated and realised the decision to represent HIV positive identities to children and adolescents through a variety of children's media. This reveals how adults, in grappling with their own anxieties about HIV/AIDS, exposed many of their attitudes to childhood, adolescence, disease, gender, sexuality and agency. To directly address how representations of HIV positive identities have been constructed disseminated and received, a broad interdisciplinary approach was adopted, allowing the research to move beyond the historiography, to include other areas of scholarship such as sociology, media studies, queer and critical theory. This approach has opened new areas of analysis, allowing me to attend to HIV positive identities as intersectional, situational, hierarchical and temporally specific intertextual artefacts, revealing the complex interplay between individual agency and the social, cultural and personal creation of HIV positive identities. This thesis is not a history of children's lives in the age of AIDS, rather I offer a glimpse of how adults reactively [re]constructed childhood in the age of AIDS. Each chapter focuses on a different source and type of children's media, placing them in their wider cultural and political context and in comparison with adult media.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2017