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Symposium: Reviewing social science research conducted during the ‘HIV Treatment Era’ in the UK

October 6 2016, The Open University, Hawley Crescent, London.

In 1996, at the 11th international conference on AIDS in Vancouver, trials of new ‘combination’ pharmaceutical HIV treatments reported remarkable effectiveness in delaying disease progression. Implementation of these treatments in the global north was accompanied by dramatic accounts of ‘Lazarus-like’ recoveries and the emptying out of acute HIV wards. Vancouver 1996 ushered in a ‘treatment-era’, which transformed HIV from a short almost invariably fatal condition to a chronic treatable condition. The treatment era (roughly 1996 to 2011, when pharmaceutical prevention technologies were developed) transformed not only the experience of living with HIV but also how HIV is perceived, imagined and represented.

In the UK, a major body of government-funded applied social science research was conducted during this period, which responded to questions around treatment access, adherence and the impact of treatments on sexual risk. To mark the 20th anniversary of the Vancouver conference, this symposium considered what this work can tell us about transformations wrought by the treatment era; and in particular, topics of concern to medical sociology, such as biomedical subjectivities and identities, sexuality intimacy and risk and social/political organising around health and illness.

This symposium, funded by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness brought together three groups: (a) the researchers who produced this research, (b) people with HIV who lived through this period and (c) a new generation of researchers working in this area. By uniting (or reuniting) those who were the ‘subject’ or ‘object’ of the research with those who produced it we can consider questions of authorship/authority and re-cast the research and its findings as artefacts for sociological enquiry. Moreover, by enabling a new generation of researchers to critically reflect on the research, we can also consider questions of the influence, continuity and future research agendas.

See further details and eight presentations from this symposium

Setting the scene

Catherine Dodds

Subjectivities, Identities & Collectivities

Corinne Squire


Patricia Kingori

Governance & Resistance

Ingrid Young


You+Me conference poster

It is over 30 years since the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic began in the UK. Although its stigma remains, these days many people live well with HIV. Recently it has been shown HIV treatments can help stop the virus being passed on. This is already changing how doctors treat HIV, but few studies have looked into how this might affect HIV positive and HIV negative people’s relationships. This research focuses on the experiences of gay and bisexual men in relationships who have different HIV statuses to each other (known as serodiscordant relationships) in order to understand what it is like, how they make their relationship work, and where HIV treatment plays a role.

YOU+ME poster pdf

Biomedical HIV prevention: exploring the role of intimate engagements and ways of living

Slideset from a presentation made December 14 2017, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

In this seminar, Peter Keogh discussed emerging findings from a study examining the various ways in which HIV ant-retroviral (pharmaceutical) treatments have been used over the last twenty years and in particular, how they have been ‘re-purposed’ from playing a role in the treatment of HIV to also being used in the prevention of HIV.

Intimate engagements 1 powerpoint presentation

Intimate engagements 1 powerpoint presentation