A Crisis of Meaning: How Gay Men Are Making Sense of AIDS

By Steven Schwartzberg | Go to book overview

3

Representations of HIV and AIDS:
The Building Blocks of Meaning

Stan is a 48-year-old bank clerk. A
quiet and shy man, he had never told anyone in his life that he was gay.
Then he learned he was HIV-positive. Since finding out, he has done a
complete turnabout, dispensing with his long-ingrained style of secrecy
and guardedness. The results have been dramatic: At 48 and with crashing
T-cells, he is just now, in his words, "coming alive." He describes learning
that he was positive as the most transformative event of his adulthood.

At 27, Jules has known of his seropositivity for four years. These have been difficult years for him -- a time of increasing isolation and loneliness, of anxiety and depression, of deepening separation from friends and family. He says, "I don't fit anywhere." He finds no sense of connection with his work colleagues, with other gay men, or even with other HIV-positive individuals. Jules has never lost a friend to AIDS and remains robustly healthy. Yet concerns about AIDS enshroud his life.

Eugene has adapted reasonably well to living with HIV.He has "good days and bad days," and suffers from bouts of depression. But he finds great meaning in his work with an AIDS service organization, and values the contribution he makes to the community. He has also found solace in rediscovering religious beliefs he had abandoned in his teens, 30 years earlier. His political views (another source of pride) tend to be progressive or radical -- yet he also believes AIDS' presence among gay men hails from sexual "indulgence."

-40-

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A Crisis of Meaning: How Gay Men Are Making Sense of AIDS
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Part One - Introduction 1
  • 1 - A Crisis of Meaning 3
  • 2 - Meaning: the Perennial Quest 18
  • 3 - Representations of Hiv and Aids: the Building Blocks of Meaning 40
  • Part Two - Styles of Adaptation 69
  • 4 - Transformation: a Journey of Growth 71
  • 5 - Rupture: the Shattering of Meaning 101
  • 6 - Camouflage: the Fine Line of Self-Deception 125
  • 7 - Impassivity: Minimizing the Trauma 147
  • Part Three - Restoring Meaning 171
  • 8 - Living with Uncertainty, Ambiguity, and Questions of Mortality 173
  • 9 - Coping, Changing, Growing 190
  • 10 - Grief and Hope 208
  • Epilogue - The Current Moment 227
  • Appendix A - The Men in the Study 231
  • Appendix B - Research Data 236
  • Notes 241
  • References 253
  • Index 261
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