Sexual Health Surveillance: Homosexuality Investigations and HIV/AIDS in the US Military, 1981-93

Friday, January 5, 2018: 2:10 PM
Thurgood Marshall East (Marriott Wardman Park)
Natalie Shibley, University of Pennsylvania
This paper examines parallels and intersections between sexually transmitted disease prevention practices and homosexuality investigations in the United States military, focusing especially on the military response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s. I show how the military’s history of treating homosexuality as though it were itself a potentially contagious illness affected HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. I argue that the armed forces employed a version of contact tracing, common for limiting the spread of STDs, in their investigations of individuals suspected of homosexuality and that medical and criminal surveillance methodologies overlapped in both STD prevention policy and anti-homosexuality policy. Additionally, the paper discusses the earliest courts-martial of service members for allegedly having unprotected sex without notifying partners of their HIV status and situates these cases within the contexts of military health care and military justice. The paper uses statistical data, military memos and correspondence, court records, administrative discharge board records, and press sources.
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