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Melani Castro

Professor Vyvial

ENGL 1302

11 May 2017

Combatting HIV

Through recent years, AIDS, a sexually transmitted disease, has gone from hiding behind the

shadows to being more acknowledged across many platforms around the world. AIDS is an

acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. A

key figure to this acknowledgement has been Mary Fisher. Fisher delivered her speech, “A

whisper of Aids”, on August 19, 1992. The occasion for her speech was the 1992 Republican

Convention Address, and it took place in Houston, Texas. In her speech, Fisher uses statistics,

her integrity as a mother, and intense imagery to successfully support her claim that HIV should

not be a dirty secret; instead its awareness should be promoted and people should be more


Fisher is able to make a connection with the audience by presenting statistics that showed

how HIV can be, one way or another, a part of anyone’s life. These statistics were strategically

placed at the beginning of her speech to capture the audience and want them to listen to what she

had to say. In these statistics, she includes the enormous amounts of people that are infected with

this disease to show the severity of the situation. Fisher states “Two hundred thousand Americans

are dead or dying,” to show her audience that this is not something small that can be ignored. She

starts off with referencing the American statistic first because this shows how close to home this

disease really is. During this time, many people were ignorant to this topic, and believed that is
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was a disease passed only through homosexuals or drug abusers. Since people’s perception

towards this subject was negative, this line was meant to make the audience reflect and realize

that they themselves, or people they know, can be infected. She then goes on to reference the

millions who are affected globally, and finally she ends with the millions more that are to

potentially become infected. The technique used is supposed to convey the magnitude of the

situation. It is supposed to be a call to action for people to become aware and start accepting

people for who they are, not what they carry. Although her argument was very strong, it could be

argued that her lack of credible sources weakened her argument. She never references the

statistics in her speech which could be cause for skepticism, but it could also have been done on

purpose to not distract from her point.

Additionally, Fisher references her integrity as a parent to strengthen her credibility. Her

references to being a mother eases her audience into trusting her. They trust her, because mothers

are perceived as trustworthy, honest, and reliable people. Her statement “parent or policymaker,

we must act as eloquently as we speak,” is effective because it calls on the people to teach

fairness, and not be scared. She says this phrase to get the public to reflect on what they teach

and what morals they are passing on to future generations. Also, just being who she is gives her

credibility. She has credibility because Fisher is the daughter of a respected millionaire, and

wealthy people are generally respected. Also, for some audiences the fact that she is Republican

makes her trustworthy. In addition to this, she establishes credibility by referencing a past speech

she had given about AIDS. This reference is the first building block to establishing credibility,

because it tells the public that she has previous experience and knowledge about the situation.

Later she reveals that she has HIV, which also adds to her credibility because it means that she

has personally dealt with it, and knows what it is like to live with it.
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The use of pathos is a very powerful influencer in Fisher’s speech. She says many gut-

wrenching things to help the public picture the pain that HIV patients go through. In addition to

that pain they also face public rejection. The phrase “…I am one with a black infant struggling

with tubes,” shows that one is not much different from others. It shows the reality of the

situation, and although may seem like a harsh image, is supposed to be a reality check for what is

happening. It helps the audience become a little more understanding on the situation, and

hopefully make them aware enough to acknowledge the problem. She is trying to tell the

audience that all people are susceptible to this disease, and to open their eyes to the danger they

might not have thought was present. Her goal is to make them a little more compassionate

towards the people who are infected. She wants them to realize how hard the disease is for the

people, and the added hate that these people receive makes it even harder. Although that phrase

was very emotive, she continues to pull at the heart strings through repetition. She repeats the

word “though” to emphasize that anyone can get this disease. She conveys this by giving a

glimpse at the reality some may live. She goes on to compare her life with that of a gay man, to

show that although they are different, they are connected through the same disease.

The purpose of this speech is to make people understand that HIV is not a dirty thing that

happens to only select people, and that it can affect anyone. Her purpose is to spread

acknowledgement over the silence that once covered HIV. Her purpose is to make her audience

compassionate to this issue, and she was successful in her argument through her use of statistics,

imagery, and her integrity as a mother/human being.
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Work Cited

"American Rhetoric: Mary Fisher -- 1992 Republican National Convention Address ("A Whisper

of Aids")." American Rhetoric: Mary Fisher -- 1992 Republican National Convention

Address ("A Whisper of Aids"). N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.