Understanding the impact of HIV diagnosis amongst gay men in Scotland: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Paul Flowers, Mark Mc Gregor Davis, Michael Larkin, Stephanie Church, Claire Marriott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: Although a wide literature details the psychological impact of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis, it predates the introduction of effective treatment for HIV (i.e. anti-retroviral therapies, ARTs). This article explores the psychological impact of HIV diagnosis in post-ART accounts. This is important, given the recent policy developments which focus upon increasing HIV testing and thus diagnoses. Design: This study presents a qualitative exploration of the experiential accounts of HIV-positive gay men living in Scotland. A total of 14 HIV-positive gay men took part in open-ended interviews. Methods: Interpretative phenomenological analysis was employed to identify recurrent themes across the interviews.Results: Our analysis focuses upon the participants' struggles in adjusting to their HIV status. Diagnosis was a deeply shocking and unexpected experience. Stigma and fear of prejudice dominated their accounts. HIV was understood, variously, as a shameful, fatal and life-changing condition. Overall, within these accounts there was little sense of HIV normalisation. Conclusions: In Scotland, where HIV prevalence is low, and where no accessible HIV-positive sub-culture exists, there is on-going psychological distress and morbidity amongst gay men testing HIV positive. As HIV-related policy increasingly focuses on increasing rates of antibody testing, there is a need to reduce the psychosocial costs associated with HIV-positive diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1378-1391
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology and Health
Volume26
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2011

Keywords

  • chronic illness
  • diagnosis
  • gay men
  • HIV
  • IPA
  • medicalisation

Cite this