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Counselling anomie: clashing governmentalities of HIV criminalisation and prevention

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HIV criminalisation is a term that describes the criminal prosecution of persons in instances of HIV transmission, exposure and so-called non-disclosure of their HIV serostatus. In the United States (US), there have been over 500 reported instances of HIV criminalisation. Over the past decade, several negative consequences of HIV criminalisation have been identified, including its capacity to increase stigma and social injustice. In addition, scholars have built an evidence base demonstrating that HIV criminalisation has the potential to undermine HIV prevention and that it is thus harmful to public health. This article contributes to that evidence base by (1) combining Foucaultian studies of ‘governmentality’ with the sociology of ‘anomie’ to theorise the larger implications of HIV criminalisation for the institution of public health, and (2) presenting interviews with public health service providers working in Tennessee, USA. This state is an important site for studying the public health implications of HIV criminalisation because, between 2008 and 2012, it was reported to have led all American jurisdictions in prosecutions of HIV-specific criminal offences. Concentrating on discussions of post-test counselling, this article argues that a major system-level effect of HIV criminalisation is the propagation of an anomic affective climate, which makes it difficult to establish norms of HIV prevention.
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Keywords: HIV counselling; HIV criminalisation; HIV prevention; HIV testing; disclosure

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada

Publication date: August 8, 2015

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