Polish HIV/AIDS Organizations through the Lens of Various Social Actors’ Biographies

Monday, 16 July 2018
Justyna STRUZIK, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland
From an epidemiological perspective Poland has never experienced an epidemic level in terms of HIV/AIDS. The first diagnoses and the first attempts at shaping policy responses took place in the mid- and late 1980s, respectively. The history of creating HIV/AIDS policies in Poland (as throughout Central and Eastern Europe) is intertwined with political, economic and cultural transformation. The transformation of the early 1990s brought about several HIV/AIDS organizations in the biggest Polish cities, and the first state institutions addressing their activities to people living with HIV/AIDS. In the beginning of the 1990s political and economic changes taking place in the CEE created new political, discursive and cultural opportunity structures for social organizing and civil acting in the field of HIV/AIDS. On the one hand, it allowed for the strengthening of the Catholic Church and its greater involvement in humanitarian action/social assistance, also with respect to HIV, and on the other it contributed to the emergence of progressive social HIV/AIDS-related organizations acting in the field of human and minorities rights. The purpose of the proposed presentation will be to look at HIV organizations in the 1990s on the basis of biographical interviews conducted with activists and professionals throughout Poland. By introducing voices of activists and experts from different localities (both in terms of geographical differentiation and institutional and thematic diversity of organizations), the presentation will provide the mapping of personal stories of HIV engagements. Special attention will be given to the reflections of systemic changes visible in the collected narratives of the representatives of different organizations: civil society organizations, state institutions and church-related initiatives. The analysis will also present agency of the actors emerging from their personal biographies, showing the ways in which they shaped the organizations in the context of the transformation.