Understandings of risk among HIV seroconverters in Sydney

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Abstract
This paper examines the risk discourses of Sydney gay men who had recently become HIV positive. 92 in depth interviews were conducted eliciting narratives about the incident in which they believed they became infected. The veracity of this narrative was negotiated between the interviewer and participant. Qualitative analysis was performed in order to distinguish different styles of thinking and acting in relation to risk. Two overarching discourses were distinguished that broadly related to the fields of public health, HIV prevention education, social theory and health policy. These we characterise as `quantifiable/objectivist` and `social/subjectivist`. The first approach sees risk as objectively knowable through the application of scientific method or reasoned thinking. The second regards actors as culturally embedded in relation to risk, itself a cultural category. The fact that all men in this study became infected demonstrates the potential fallibility of both approaches. HIV prevention strategies need to take account of both the cultural aspects of risk, understanding the embedded quality of everyday cultural practices such as hygiene, and understand these assumptions are often inadequate for preventing HIV infection. Objectivist approaches also entail problems as many men using them felt HIV infection to be inevitable or unavoidable in some circumstances.
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Slavin, Sean
Richters, Juliet
Kippax, Susan
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Publication Year
2004
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Journal Article
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