chapter  11
16 Pages

Sins of the fathers?

Syphilis, HIV/AIDS, and innocent women and children
ByElisabet Björklund

In educational films about so-called venereal diseases, images of newborn babies covered with sores caused by syphilis were a recurring spectacle. Often, these images were connected to a moral message about how men’s sexual relations before or outside marriage could have negative consequences, not only for their own health, but for the health of their wives and future children as well – the “sins of the fathers” passed on to the next generation. In this chapter, Staffan Hildebrand’s documentaries Women and AIDS (1990) and Women at the Frontline (2008) are analyzed as a case study to examine if similar discourses and representational strategies were used in the case of the HIV epidemic. As many have noted, the discourse around HIV and AIDS early on revolved around ideas of “innocence” and “guilt,” and the chapter argues that Hildebrand’s films are examples of a feminist discourse in which women and children are to a great extent constructed as innocent victims of the epidemic. As such, there are both similarities and differences between the meanings produced in Hildebrand’s films and earlier films about syphilis.