The analysis of social representations played an important role in understanding AIDS and attitudes toward the illness. In particular, research on the representations spread by media detected a historical evolution of the social construction of the phenomenon from ’80s to date. This paper aims at contributing to this debate through exploring the evolution of journalistic discourse on AIDS by comparing two periods (1985-1990 and 2005-2010) in order to detect whether and how representations of AIDS changed over twenty years. The research textual corpus is composed of a sample of 446 articles derived from the Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera. Specificity analysis allowed the comparison of two sub-corpora consisting in the articles produced between 1985 and 1990 and 2005 and 2010 respectively, in order to detect the typical words characterizing the sub-corpora. Overall, results highlight some differences dealing with a general normalization of the disease: from alarmism characterizing the 80s, discourse on AIDS changes over raising higher public awareness in the 2000’s. From topics such as deviance of specific social groups at risk, the focus on the diagnosis, the problems of public order and the marginalization of the patient, more recent popular press reports different topics such as global health, the therapeutic solutions, epidemiology, the chronicity of the disease and the impact on quality of life.
Keywords: AIDS, Social representations, Text analysis, Mass communication