Call for Papers - Couples with Mixed HIV Status: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Serodiscordance

18 Sep 2014


Asha Persson, Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Australia, Shana Hughes, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California San Francisco

For those with access to ARV treatment, the last twenty years have brought about dramatic changes in the kind of lives and futures people with HIV can expect. Increased longevity and less arduous pharmaceutical regimens have opened new possibilities for post-diagnosis life, including greater opportunities to form long-term intimate and even reproductive relationships with partners who are HIV-negative. These “serodiscordant” relationships, as they are called, have been considered a primary driver of the epidemic in many parts of the world, but this notion is increasingly challenged by research and by the rapidly moving field of HIV medical science.

The recent past has witnessed important developments both in our understanding of the virus, and new possibilities for controlling its transmission, most notably the concept of treatment-as- prevention (TasP), and prophylactic technologies (e.g. PrEP and microbicides). Serodiscordant couples have played an important part in the research leading to these discoveries. But while clinical trials have produced a wealth of data on sexual behaviour, transmission risk, and the preventive effects of ARV among serodiscordant couples, our knowledge about such couples outside of the narrow confines of controlled studies remains quite limited. In particular, what begs exploration is the experience of “serodiscordance” as a negotiated practice and process, inseparable from the social context in which it is situated. The critical work that is needed is to understand how cultural dynamics of illness, gender, sexuality and power, as well as access to global biomedical technologies, both enable and constrain the ways serodiscordance is lived, managed and made sense of in local settings. As HIV is increasingly represented as a chronic condition, we must ask how serodiscordant intimate relationships are understood by those who live them; and how this not only shapes transmission risk, but how it impacts and articulates with the rest of their lives.

Such understandings of serodiscordance are valuable for their practical application of informing health interventions and policy, which may ultimately contribute to the emergent global goal of ending the pandemic. But serodiscordance also provides a unique lens through which to explore and gain sociological insights into locally situated conceptions and intersections of illness, intimacy, risk, sexuality, reproduction, stigma, love, and citizenship more broadly, as well as the diverse and complex ways humans both resist and make use of the increasing biomedicalisation of the societies in which they live.

We welcome conceptual and empirical work on gay and heterosexual serodiscordant couples (including those in polygamous relationships) in a range of cultural and epidemiological settings. Discussion pieces, personal stories, and critical reviews of the literature are also welcome.

The audience for this book will be students and researchers in anthropology, sociology, gender studies, social work, nursing, public health and medicine who have an interest in cross-cultural perspectives on sexual health, relationships and biomedicine. The audience will also include members of affected communities, advocates, and health care and other service providers who work with serodiscordant couples.

A chapter length will be about 8000 words. Some photographs can be included in the chapter. The submission date will be 15 May 2015 (can be negotiable). The book is likely to be published in the Springer’s book series: Cross-Cultural Research in Health, Illness and Well-Being. Springer normally provides a free copy of the book to the first three authors of the chapter.

If you are interested in being part of this exciting book, please send an abstract (300 words) and your short biography (100 words at most) to Asha Persson: by 10 November 2014.