Workable Sisterhood: The Political Journey of Stigmatized Women with HIV/AIDS

By Michele Tracy Berger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Narratives of Injustice: Discovery of
the HIV/AIDS Virus

The way I was told about my HIV status was almost as traumatizing as the
disease itself
.

—Cherise, thirty-two

Dignity is the key word in dealing with AIDS. The women who are active in
women and HIV/AIDS issues in Detroit had our dignity stripped away through
the very process of finding out we were HIV-positive. We began fighting for our
dignity the day we found out we were HIV-positive
.

—Cynthia, forty

I never thought that I’d get treated the way that I did by medical providers. But,
they really didn’t see me that day—as a white woman, what they saw was a dirty
crack user, a nobody. Being a white woman only protects you so much
.

—Shenna, twenty-five

In chapter one, I have argued that the women’s experiences surrounding the context of discovery of the HIV/AIDS virus significantly influenced their future political activity. Their comprehension of those events was a precipitating catalyst to self-recovery, self-empowerment, and later political participation. Delineating their perception of the situation in which they now found themselves after learning they were HIV-positive and the consequences of that discovery, is the focus of this chapter.

Moreover, this chapter explores the resulting narratives of injustice arising from the manner in which they were informed they had contracted this serious illness. These narratives of injustice stemmed from what respondents perceived as negligent treatment. These are not just accounts of inconvenience, but rather the ways in which the women were ignored, underserved, and neglected. Their treatment and context of discovery reveal the social dynamics of intersectional stigma discussed toward the end of the chapter.

This neglectful treatment ranged from receiving no or very little useful information regarding the HIV/AIDS virus to actual bias and discrimination based on their drug-using status and prior history of sex work. Because of their social location, they were advised of the HIV/AIDS virus in significantly different ways from many others with the disease. Overall, as they described how they learned they were HIV-positive, respondents would

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