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The normalization of AIDS in Western European countries


  • Rosenbrock, Rolf
  • Dubois-Arber, Francoise
  • Moers, Martin
  • Pinell, Patrice
  • Schaeffer, Doris
  • Setbon, Michel


The occurrence of AIDS led in every Western European country to exceptional innovations in prevention, patient care, health policy and questions of civil rights. This exception can be explained above all by the fact that not only was a health catastrophe feared but also civilizational harm in the field of civil rights. Despite national differences, this brought about similar exceptionalist alliances consisting of health professionals, social movements and those affected. With the failure of a catastrophe to arise, signs of fatigue in the exceptionalist alliance and increasing possibilities of medical treatment, exceptionalism in Europe is drawing to a close. Four phases are distinguished between in this process, given nationally different patterns of development: Approx. 1981-1985: emergence of exceptionalism. The reasons underlying exceptionalism are investigated. Approx. 1986-1991: consolidation and performance of exceptionalism. The investigation centers on the exceptionalist policy model. Approx. 1991-1996: exceptionalism crumbling, steps toward normalization. The forces driving the process of normalization are investigated. Since 1996: normalization, normality. The forms and perspectives of the changes made in the management of HIV and AIDS are elucidated using examples from the fields of health care, primary prevention and drug policies. AIDS health-policy innovations, their risks and opportunities in the course of normalization are investigated. Three possible paths of development are identified: stabilization, generalization and retreat. The chances of utilizing innovations developed in connection with AIDS for the modernization of health policy in other fields of prevention and patient care vary from country to country with the degree to which AIDS exceptionalism has been institutionalized and the distance of these innovations from medical, therapeutic events.

Suggested Citation

  • Rosenbrock, Rolf & Dubois-Arber, Francoise & Moers, Martin & Pinell, Patrice & Schaeffer, Doris & Setbon, Michel, 2000. "The normalization of AIDS in Western European countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(11), pages 1607-1629, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:11:p:1607-1629

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    Cited by:

    1. Barbot, Janine, 2006. "How to build an "active" patient? The work of AIDS associations in France," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 538-551, February.
    2. Deblonde, Jessika & Meulemans, Herman & Callens, Steven & Luchters, Stanley & Temmerman, Marleen & Hamers, Françoise F., 2011. "HIV testing in Europe: Mapping policies," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 103(2), pages 101-110.
    3. Mattes, Dominik, 2014. "“Life is not a rehearsal, it's a performance”: An ethnographic enquiry into the subjectivities of children and adolescents living with antiretroviral treatment in northeastern Tanzania," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 28-37.


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