Seminar Series: Stigma, Stories and Serodiscordant Sexuality in the Biomedical Age

stigma event

At a time when advances in biomedicine have rendered people with HIV non-infectious under certain conditions, much of the public discourse on HIV remains stuck in a paradigm of ‘risk’, which does little to lessen the stigmatising divide between people with and without HIV in society, or challenge the way intimate relationships across this divide are typically cast as undesirable and problematic. We rarely hear the stories of couples who live with mixed HIV statuses and how they themselves perceive and manage their so called HIV ‘serodiscordance’. This presentation will examine such stories by mixed-status couples in Australia.

What was notable about these stories was a desire to communicate a particular message, one that ran largely counter to the dominant risk discourse. The couples invoked narratives of love, the everyday unimportance and manageability of HIV, and recent developments in HIV medicine to refute or challenge the way serodiscordant sexuality has been cast in public health and HIV prevention. Drawing on Ken Plummer’s work on hidden sexual stories, we consider not only the content of their stories, but the broader significance of stories to the world in which they are enacted, of storytelling as a rallying point for social and political recognition and legitimacy. Reflecting on our own role in the co-production of research stories, we argue that by moving marginalised sexual stories out of silence, stigmatised communities and researchers can conjointly and incrementally shape a new public discourse and new forms of ‘intimate citizenship’.

Dr Asha Persson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health. Asha is part of the HIV team and her research is primarily focused on 'living with HIV'. Areas of research include: the lived experiences of medical side effects; lipodystrophy and body image; HIV in regional NSW (Northern Rivers); cultural discourses of health and illness; HIV in the mainstream media, living heterosexually with HIV; children growing up with HIV; and couples with mixed HIV status (serodiscordance).

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