The Unearned Mark: The History of the Child Stigma

Mateusz Szubert



The aim of the article is to shed light on cases of stigma among the youngest victims of
the AIDS epidemic, a topic that Polish readers may not be familiar with. Since the very
beginning of the AIDS epidemic, hemophiliacs have been classified as belonging to the
so-called highest risk group, next to homosexuals, drug addicts, and prostitutes. In the age
of hysterical anxiety centered around HIV, young hemophiliacs quickly became the subject
of social repression and persecution.
An extremely valuable material that shows the strength of the social stigma, as seen and
experienced from the perspective of a young patient, is Ryan White’s diary documenting his
illness. Ryan’s autobiography illustrates perfectly the development of a negative mythology
concerning the disease and reveals its destructive potential. The portrayal of the young hemophiliac
is a compendium of knowledge about the social mechanisms of stigmatisation,
and in particular of strategies aimed to control fear.


HIV/AIDS; hemophilia; taboo; stigma; illness; exclusion; epidemic; fear

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