"The Kitschification of AIDS" was one of the most controversial chapters in Harris' book, "The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture," containing his disturbing analysis of the AIDS Quilt.
In some senses, "the kitschification of AIDS" could be replaced with "commodification"; how does the media representation of people with AIDS become part of the "marketing package"?
In The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, I talk a lot about the marketing of what I call the "AIDS product." My thesis is this: in the early stages of the epidemic, the Reagan and Bush administrations refused to allocate the money necessary to cover basic costs of research and treatment, with the result that movie stars, and not government officials, became the epidemic's statesmen, its panhandlers, the ones who were forced to seek alternative sources of funding out in the open market, in charity balls, rock concerts, and fashion benefits. Because of insufficient federal funds, activists were forced to turn the disease into a commodity and sell it to the public like any snack food, compensating for the lack of government support with private support, with charitable contributions, which they extorted from the public by arousing pity for the victims, by packaging the epidemic in sentimental clichés that reduced potential donors to a state of maximum susceptibility. The more money that was needed for the disease, the kitschier it became. Had the Republican administrations of the 1980s been more responsible, the epidemic would not have spawned nearly as many sentimental images which activists designed expressly to overcome consumer resistance and prime the pumps of private contributions. So I see kitsch in crudely economic terms, as a practical response to federal irresponsibility, which provoked a massive PR blitz as tacky as any advertising campaign for a new shampoo or a dish detergent.