Tempering hope with Intimate Knowledge: contrasting emergences of the concept ‘uninfectious’ in HIV

Keogh, Peter and Dodds, Catherine (2021). Tempering hope with Intimate Knowledge: contrasting emergences of the concept ‘uninfectious’ in HIV. Sociology of Health & Illness, 43(5) pp. 1100–1116.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.13264


In this paper, we contrast two emergences of the concept of ‘uninfectious’ (that pharmaceuticals can render someone living with HIV non‐infectious) in HIV. First, using Novas’ framing of ‘political economies of hope’, we describe the deployment of ‘uninfectious’ as part of global health campaigns. Second, we draw on Raffles’ (International Social Science Journal, 2002, 54, 325) concept of ‘intimate knowledge’ to theorise our own account of ‘uninfectious’ through a re‐analysis of qualitative data comprising the intimate experiences of people living with or around HIV collected at various points over the last 25 years. Framed as intimate knowledge, ‘uninfectious’ becomes known through people’s multiple engagements with and developing understandings of HIV over a prolonged period. As contingent and specific, intimate knowledge does not register within the biomedical/scientific ontological system that underpins discourses of hope employed in global campaigns. The concept of intimate knowledge offers the potential to critique discourses of hope in biomedicine problematising claims to universality whilst enriching biomedical understandings with accounts of affective, embodied experience. Intimate knowledge may also provide a bridge between different epistemological traditions in the sociology of health and illness.

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