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This paper focuses on one crucial aspect of this enactment: the contemporary ‘normalisation’ of HIV as ‘just another’ chronic condition – a process taking place at the level of individual subjectivities, social identities, clinical practices and global health policy, and of which social science research is a vital part.Through an analysis of 76 interviews conducted in London (2009–10), we examine tensions in the experiential narratives of individuals living with HIV in which life with the virus is framed as ‘normal’, yet where this ‘normality’ is beset with contradictions and ambiguities.

Research early on in the epidemic showed that 40 to 70% of men who claimed they use condoms 100% of the time in fact did not use them for every act of intercourse.While condoms offer useful and vital protection, they have also become associated with promiscuity and infidelity.One widely quoted remark of this nature came from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who, at the Fifteenth International AIDS Conference in Bangkok in 2004, advocated for HIV prevention based on “optimal relationships based on love and trust instead of institutionalised mistrust, which is what the condom is all about…I think of condoms as an improvisation, not a solution”.Rather than viewing these as a reflection of resistances to or failures of the enactment of HIV as ‘normal’, we argue that, insofar as these contradictions are generated by the research interview as a distinct ‘talking technology’, they emerge as crucial to the normative (re)production of what counts as ‘living with HIV’ (in the UK) and are an inherent part of the broader performative ‘normalisation’ of the virus.

Consistently used condoms provide significant protection against HIV, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Among these technologies, we argue, is the semi-structured interview: the principal methodology used in qualitative social science research focused on patient experiences.


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