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Responsibility and HIV/AIDS: a sociological investigation

By Catherine Dodds


This thesis offers an analysis of how conceptions of responsibility have affected social responses to HIV/AIDS. The central premise of this work is that how responsibility for the disease is presumed has a determining impact upon policy and individual reactions to the epidemic. This in turn influence the spread of the disease. This thesis also addresses how AIDS and its associated meanings provides and necessitates new ways of understanding social relations of responsibility. I begin with a theoretical exploration of dominant perspectives on responsibility through the development of two analytical categories: responsibility as freedom and responsibility as control. The first of these represents those approaches to responsibility that regard it as the condition that makes individual freedom possible. The second views all notions of responsibility as an inherently restrictive means of individual self-disciplining which only serves to protect the status-quo. In the successive case studies on health promotion materials, I-IIV testing policy and the criminalisation of HIV transmission, I develop a detailed analysis of the embeddedness of individual responsibility as promoted by the responsibility as freedom model, and of the accompanying critiques of those individualised approaches that some from the responsibility as control model. I then explore and alternative form of apprehending responsibility that transcends this abrupt dichotomy between freedom and control. Using the example of the 1 3th International AIDS Conference at Durban, I elaborate an intersubjective model of responsibility. In this framework, I propose an understanding of responsibility founded on social relations and the interconnectedness of social actors. This position also acknowledges the political struggles inevitably involved in attempts to bring about change, struggles which involve individuals, civil society, organisations and states

Topics: RA0421, HM
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