Hepatitis C, love and intimacy: Beyond the 'anomalous body'

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Background: Many of the effects of hepatitis C are now well-documented. There are reports of a reduction in sexual contact, social withdrawal and feelings of contamination and contagion following diagnosis. However, on some of the more intimate aspects of living with hepatitis C, such as those relating to sexuality, love and intimacy, research is yet to be undertaken. Method: In this article, we draw on 30 interviews conducted with hepatitis C positive people in Melbourne, Australia. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim, and then coded and organized thematically. This article draws on three case studies to illustrate its findings. Results: Contracting hepatitis C significantly limited access to love and intimacy for some participants, affecting existing relationships and ruling out new ones. The task of managing both health and relationships was undertaken by women much more commonly than by men. Finding love and becoming a desirable partner, sometimes engaged people in new ways with their health. Conclusions: This article concludes with two key observations. First, ideas of love, intimacy, health and purity all rely on each other for meaning. Second, within this constellation of meanings, disease and intimacy figure as paradoxical. Together these observations indicate the need to challenge ideas about disease, sexuality and romance.
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Lenton, Emily
Fraser, Suzanne
Moore, David
Treloar, Carla
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