The paradoxical normalization of aids
The exceptional mobilization of the developed democracies confronted with aids ended in normalization. The aim of this article is to report, to discriminate between the causes and the consequences of the end of the exceptional status which have been characteristic of the public replies and social reactions towards aids since 1985. Normalization is described and analyzed as the product of a change in the perception of risk. Whereas mobilization indicated a social perception of aids as an unacceptable risk, normalization shows acceptability is made possible by the existence of replies, the limited success of treatment and the reduction of uncertainty. There results a paradoxical decoupling between the perception of risk and the epidemiological reality, with two consequences : one concerning the individual handling of risk through an upsurge in risky behaviour, confirmed by a high level of recent contaminations ; the other relating to the public handling of aids through the attempt by those in charge to interpret this social acceptability as a sign indicating the disappearance of the problem.