Health As Performance and Performance As Health: A Phenomenology of Life with HIV in Kenya

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:06
Oral Presentation
George Evans OWINO, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya
Being infected with HIV has long been associated with incapacitation and inability to fulfill social obligations. Before the widespread availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), many people diagnosed HIV positive and those infected but not yet diagnosed were often bedridden and thus were incapable of fulfilling their social obligations. However, this scenario changed with the advent of HAART. The study, whose findings are the basis of this article, sought to provide an analytical account of how people living with HIV (PLHIV) but who are on ART have regained their health and capacity to fulfill their social obligations and how this has transformed their perceptions of what it means to be healthy. Data for this qualitative study was collected through in-depth interviews with 49 PLHIV in western Kenya. The data was audio recorded, transcribed into text and thematically analyzed based on the study objectives. The study shows that diagnosis and subsequent enrollment on HAART had a positive impact on majority of the PLHIV. They recovered their body stature and regained health and well-being. Most, who were hitherto bedridden, were able to rise from their beds and managed to resume their daily activities. The study concludes that the social definition of being healthy is pegged on capacity to perform social roles and meet other social obligations. As such, the ability to recover health and regain capacity to fulfill social obligations is crucial in providing a solid ground upon which PLHIV can rebuild their lives. The author recommends that PLHIV require support to regain capacity for optimal engagement in the affairs of everyday life as this would enhance their sense of well-being and self-efficacy.