Can a pill prevent HIV? Negotiating the biomedicalisation of HIV prevention

Ingrid Young, Paul Flowers, Lisa Mcdaid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)
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This article examines how biomedicalisation is encountered, responded to and negotiated within and in relation to new biomedical forms of HIV prevention. We draw on exploratory focus group discussions on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment as prevention (TasP) to examine how the processes of biomedicalisation are affected by and affect the diverse experiences of communities who have been epidemiologically framed as 'vulnerable' to HIV and towards whom PrEP and TasP will most likely be targeted. We found that participants were largely critical of the perceived commodification of HIV prevention as seen through PrEP, although this was in tension with the construction of being medical consumers by potential PrEP candidates. We also found how deeply entrenched forms of HIV stigma and homophobia can shape and obfuscate the consumption and management of HIV-related knowledge. Finally, we found that rather than seeing TasP or PrEP as 'liberating' through reduced levels of infectiousness or risk of transmission, social and legal requirements of responsibility in relation to HIV risk reinforced unequal forms of biomedical self-governance. Overall, we found that the stratifying processes of biomedicalisation will have significant implications in how TasP, PrEP and HIV prevention more generally are negotiated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-425
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • biomedical
  • focus groups
  • gay/lesbian
  • HIV
  • immigrants/migrants/refugees
  • sexual health


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