Narrative accounts of illness often focus on the sociological construction of illness and neglect the body. This paper explores themes of seeing and being seen in the narrative of an HIV positive man to show the importance of uncovering the psychological and corporeal experience of HIV. Such accounts complement and enhance conventional medical accounts of illness. Poignantly, it is a story of how he understands others as reading his body and writing on it. Further, his story is not one that is in circulation. Accounts of positive heterosexual males are few. This paper seeks to add at least one account to the public record so that others may have narrative resources to draw upon. Narrative analysis provides new perspectives on the lived experience of HIV, which are crucial to appreciate how it might be possible to live a positive life.
- GUM, genitorurinary medicine
- HIV, human immunodeficiency virus
- IVDU, intravenous drug user
- STI, sexually transmitted infection
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↵i I would like to thank Andrew Edgar for discussions, which prompted new ways of thinking about this data.
↵ii For a provirus to produce new viruses, RNA copies must be made that can be read by the host cell’s protein making machinery. These copies are called messenger RNA (mRNA), and production of mRNA is called transcription, a process that involves the host cell’s own enzymes. Viral genes in concert with the cellular machinery control this process: the tat gene—for example, encodes a protein that accelerates transcription. Genomic RNA is also transcribed for later incorporation in the budding virion.14
↵iii Pauses are marked by (.) and line numbers of the original transcript are given: l indicates a single line, ll indicates more than one line.
↵iv CD4 count is a measure of immune system strength as it measures the level of T helper cells in the blood. A CD4 count of zero essentially means that the immune system is not functioning at all.
↵v “Dirty” is also exactly the term John uses when talking about homosexuals; “they’re [homosexuals] dirty buggers” (l 167), “you don’t want those dirty buggers near us” (l 171).
↵vi Though the Positive Speakers’ initiative, active in many parts of the world, attempts to recuperate this.
Source of Support: The Language and Global Communication research programme of the Centre for Language and Communication Research has been funded for a five year period by the Leverhulme Trust.