The Social Construction and Social Representation of HIV: An Anthropological Study

Bernardo Adrian Robles Aguirre

Abstract


Background: The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a public health concern that affects men, women, and children. The virus does not just infect individuals, it affects all of society. It fosters a restructuring of daily life and of social spaces that changes the day to day life of those infected with the virus. In this way the disease acquires a set of meanings that emerge from incomplete and often unconscious ideas about the virus and about how HIV develops. As a result is is often depicted as a terrible monster capable of decimating entire societies.

Research Question: This paper presents an analysis of the life styles, experiences and conceptions of a group of ten men living with HIV infection in Mexico.

Methods: In order to develop a rich understanding of how the virus managed to occupy our subject's very existence we used qualitative methods which put the emphasis on the voice of the patients living with the virus. Interviews were carried out to identify how men who are seropositive go about their daily interactions, how they conceptualize their body, and how much they know about HIV, AID, and HAART.

Results: The diagnosis of HIV infection transforms the reality and sense of self for each individual. A pattern emerges - first processing the meaning of the diagnosis, then assimilating it into ones sense of self, then facing the disease and finally combatting it. How this pattern plays out is different for each person and depends to a great extent on their level of education, their social and economic status as well as their customs and habits. Stigma plays an important role and specific suggestions are presented for improvement management of HIV at both the individual and social level.

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Department of Family and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
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