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HIV disclosure as practice and public policy

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Responses to the largest surveys of HIV-positive people in Ontario show that most either disclose to or do not have partners who are HIV-negative or of unknown status. Non-disclosure strategies and assumptions are reported by relatively small sets of people with some variation according to employment status, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, and having had a casual partner. Interviews with 122 people living with HIV show that disclosure is an undertaking fraught with emotional pitfalls complicated by personal histories of having misread cues or having felt deceived leading up to their own sero-conversion, then having to negotiate a stigmatized status with new people. In gay communities, constructions of the self as individual actors in a marketplace of risk co-exist with the sexual etiquette developed throughout the AIDS era of care of the self and other through safer sex. Among heterosexual populations, notions of responsibility show some divergence by gender. The findings of this study suggest that the heightened pressure of criminal sanction on decision-making about disclosure in personal interactions does not address difficulties in HIV transmission and is unlikely to result in enhanced prevention.
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Keywords: HIV; criminalization; disclosure

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology, University of Windsor, Windsor, Canada 2: Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada 3: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Toronto, Canada 4: Ontario HIV Treatment Network, Toronto, Canada 5: AIDS Bureau, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Toronto, Canada 6: Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Publication date: August 8, 2015

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