Patriarchal and Medical Discourses Shaping HIV/AIDS-Related Stigma and Its Management in Turkey

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 2:50 PM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Pinar OKTEM , independent researcher, Ankara, Turkey
The paper explores the discursive formation of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and its management by people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Turkey. Based on biographical narratives of 24 PLHIV, semi-structured interviews with 32 key informants, participant observation in PLHIV networks and documentary analysis, the paper focuses on the role of medical and patriarchal discourses in shaping HIV/AIDS-related stigma at the state and societal levels and highlights the implications of stigma on PLHIV’s agency in managing the physical, emotional and social aspects of living with HIV in Turkey. The findings are overviewed in two sub-sections:

First, I identify the two conflicting discourses around HIV/AIDS in Turkey: 'cultural immunity' and 'rights-based' discourses, at the state and civil society levels, respectively. Here I investigate the role of medical profession and of patriarchy in the formation of these discourses in relation to the socio-political context of Turkey, particularly referring to the perceptions about sexuality, 'modernisation' and religious discourses.

Secondly, I focus on the ways in which PLHIV understand, reframe and challenge stigma at individual and collective levels. I focus on family and healthcare as the main institutions where the context-specific ways in which HIV/AIDS-related stigma interferes with the formation and management of HIV-positive identities. Participants' reconstructions of HIV through narratives of 'injustice' and 'neglect' are shown, to address the links between the subjective understanding of and resistance to HIV/AIDS-related stigma and the overarching discourses shaping stigma. 

The paper aims at contributing to further understandings of HIV-related stigma by focusing on the power relations in the formation of stigma from a discursive and intersectional approach, by exploring the understandings of stigma from the perspective of the stigmatized, with a specific focus on the agency of PLHIV in negotiating and challenging stigma and by offering data from a cultural and geographical setting which remains under-researched.