The Endangered Self: Managing the Social Risk of HIV

The Endangered Self: Managing the Social Risk of HIV

The Endangered Self: Managing the Social Risk of HIV

The Endangered Self: Managing the Social Risk of HIV

Synopsis

The Endangered Self focuses on how the discovery of an HIV positive status affects the individual's sense of identity, and on the experience of living with HIV and its effects on the individual's social relationships.

Excerpt

We are eighteen years into the AIDS epidemic, yet there are relatively few texts which privilege the position of people living with HIV or AIDS, allowing us to see their perspective on the disease. Gill Green and Elisa Sobo, in this second book in the Health, Risk and Society series, do precisely that, by giving a voice to those with HIV from such disparate places as North-East England, Scotland’s central belt, and New Mexico. The book is also notable because of the wide range of people interviewed in the studies undertaken by the authors. Whether transmission of HIV occurred sexually, through injecting drug use, or through infected blood products (as in those with haemophilia), or whether it is men or women who are speaking, we are fortunate in being granted access to their thoughts and feelings about the experience of being HIV positive. However, the primary strength of the text is its sociological persective on HIV risk. Introducing the concept of ‘social risk’, Green and Sobo note that social situations always entail risks; “A specifically social risk is a risk…that might alter one’s social relations…taking a course of action, engaging in a behaviour, or adopting an identity that might alter one’s social relations and place in various social networks (e.g. familial, sexual, income-related etc.) and one’s position in society as a whole.” This permits a more dynamic understanding of the social processes involved in navigating risk landscapes, and in individual and social risk management, than that allowed by the somewhat static concept of stigma (although this remains useful, not least to people with HIV themselves). It also recognises that “taking risks may sometimes have negative outcomes such as rejection, isolation or loss of status,” whilst “at other times taking risks may have positive results such as increased support, love and closeness.”

Green and Sobo have produced an original and distinctive text rarely seen either in the HIV literature or within the sociology of health and illness. To understand better people’s accounts of living with HIV, they employ an analytic framework

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