This paper considers the discursive properties of public health literature produced around AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s. Attention is focused upon the role of health promotion in the UK government's response to the epidemic and on the language used in the educational campaigns conducted by the Health Education Council and its replacement the Health Education Authority. Using an analytical approach influenced by the work of Michel Foucault, the paper argues that the knowledges of AIDS produced by these various public health institutions constructed discursive boundaries between the idea of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ behavioural practices. The notion of risk, produced as it is from epidemiological knowledge, is a central mechanism in this process. It is through the production, articulation and normalisation of ‘at risk’ groups that society is fragmented and hence subject to the governance strategies of late-modern liberal economies.