Sexual politics in twenty-first century America has taken a rather surprising turn. Given the realities of the stigma still strongly associated with sexually transmitted diseases, the politics of HIV/AIDS is an unusual case study of acceptance in an age of sexual conservatism. This acceptance is contrasted through a close reading of a “young readers” novel about STDs with the ongoing stigma associated with other STDs. The politics of “abstinence only” becomes part of a discourse of the politics of human sexuality. In contrast the literature on herpes and ethnicity can be shown to engage with the problematics of identity politics missing from the STD texts. How the cultural and the medical literature parallel and differentiate themselves is a central aspect of this contrast.

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