When debility provides a future: preventing vertical transmission of HIV

McKnight, Ulla and van der Zaag, Annette-Carina (2015) When debility provides a future: preventing vertical transmission of HIV. Feminist Review, 111 (1). pp. 124-139. ISSN 0141-7789

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Abstract

In this article we investigate the way in which viral load assays are used to assess the viruses of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) - positive pregnant women who are cared for in an HIV-specialist antenatal clinic in London. One of the viral load assays has been made more sensitive to subtypes of the virus that are considered to be local, possibly reading the viruses of those who have 'foreign' subtypes as undetectable. Consequently, the patient might not be offered the kind of care needed to prevent transmission of HIV, as her body is not recognised as sufficiently debilitated. Thus, being identified as a debilitated body in this setting facilitates the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV and the management of the HIV-positive pregnant patient's virus. Further to this, we argue that in our example, having a debilitated body as constructed by the viral load assay is thus a 'privilege' that is accorded to HIV-positive persons depending on the geographic origin of their virus. Using Karen Barad's agential realism, we argue that the manner in which HIV is read through the viral load assay constructs a specific woman/foetus/HIV phenomenon. The specificity of this phenomenon directly impacts on the course of care, opening up or foreclosing the possibility of her child having a future free from HIV.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: HIV; debility; vertical transmission; antenatal care; agental realism
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0481 Theory. Method. Relations to other subjects > HM0511 Methodology. General works > HM0517 Fieldwork
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0481 Theory. Method. Relations to other subjects > HM0511 Methodology. General works > HM0517 Fieldwork > HM0520 Participant observation
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races > HT1501 Races Including race as a social group and race relations in general
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > R Medicine (General) > R723 Medical philosophy. Medical ethics
R Medicine > R Medicine (General) > R855 Medical technology
Depositing User: Ulla Mcknight
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2019 09:20
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2019 09:20
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/88657
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