Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 157 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ronald N Jacobs

Committee Members

James Zetka, Brandon Gorman


HIV/AIDS, Media, Middle East, Narrative analysis, Sociology, AIDS (Disease), Public health, Public health administration, Medical policy, Sexual minorities

Subject Categories

Public Health | Public Policy | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This study explores the role of medical discourse in the Iranian formal public sphere. It examines how an epidemiological wave of HIV/AIDS—known as "the third wave"—highlighted nontraditional sexual behaviors in public and enabled a shift in policy and discourse by the Islamic Republic State. Through analyzing published content on HIV/AIDS from five major Iranian newspapers between 2009 and 2013, this study identified four competing narratives of the third wave which coexist and have a dynamic relationship with one another. First, the medical narrative warns of an unfolding public health crisis and provides a technical perspective to make sense of the new outbreaks. Second, the third wave denialism counters the medical narrative either through neglect or rejection of the sexualization of HIV in Iran. The third narrative endorses the sexualization of AIDS in Iran through a conservative worldview and perceives it as a cultural crisis rather than a medical matter. Lastly, the critical narrative conceives the third wave within the context of Iran's reformist movement. I find that within the study time frame, the denialist narrative declined while the medical and the critical narrative grew, and the conservative narrative peaked around the middle. The empirical chapters contextualize the four narratives and explain the reasons behind their patterns and relationships. A conclusion of this work is to recommend further exploration of technical fields in authoritarian societies, where public discourse appears to enjoy more freedom from state oppression.