HIV, Stigma and Agency

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:35 PM
Room: F204
Distributed Paper
Elina OINAS , Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland
Stigmatization is here studied through interviews with HIV treatment activists and voluntary HIV treatment counsellors in an urban township in South Africa. While being also patients, the counsellors form a support and advocacy group within the clinics where they volunteer, as well as in the community and society at large. I will examine how they talk about their views on expertise and knowledge, health care, authority, biomedicine and community. These patients describe their lives, care and survival as an entangled net of different relations that sustain them, a net of relations that produces healthier embodiment including both human and non-human actors: for example, help, hope, food, laboratory results, transport to the clinic, and last but not least, the pills. Activists who politicize access to medicine and therefore add the dimension of rights and global injustice to the spectrum of questions that the biomedicalization and pharmacologization thesises should consider, tackle stigma by a de-individualization of shame as a side-effect of politicization. The paper asks what destigmatizing strategies the less vocal clinic volunteers use, as they also indicate that a major bulk of their work deals successfully with stigma. Different meanings for silences, intimacy, secrecy, confidentiality and rights are analysed.