Reconstructions of HIV and Its Stigma through Biographical Narratives of People Living with HIV in Turkey

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:45 PM
Room: Booth 60
Oral Presentation
Pinar OKTEM , independent researcher, Ankara, Turkey
The paper aims at exploring the subjective perception of living with HIV and its stigma through the biographical narratives of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Turkey. Primary data were generated with 24 PLHIV, following Biographical Narrative Interpretive Method (BNIM) and with 32 key informants, including doctors and civil society workers providing services to PLHIV. 

Biographical narratives of PLHIV are analysed to understand the implications of the discursive structures around HIV/AIDS in Turkey for PLHIV’s construction of social identities. The analysis is guided by the literature on illness narratives for the identification of narrative forms and by an intersectional approach for the identification of power structures that combine with HIV-stigma.

PLHIV’s biographical narratives demonstrated the ways in which the meaning of HIV/AIDS and its stigma is being reconstructed through PLHIV’s interactions with healthcare professionals, with civil society workers in peer-counselling services and with the overarching concept of ‘the state’. The paper focuses on three types of narratives, with respect to these three milieu: Narratives of ‘uncertainties and distrust in medical profession’, the ‘positive reconstruction of being HIV-positive’ and the narratives of ‘injustice and neglect’ reflecting a politicised illness identity.

Finally, the implications of the above-mentioned narrative reconstructions of HIV on the social identities of HIV-positive individuals are pointed out: A reconstruction of illness detached from fear and self-blame is framed through support networks. However, the potential empowering effect of this perception of illness is hindered by the stigmatising practices faced in healthcare settings and by the perceived denial and inaction at the state level.