ONLINE Roundtable AIDS and HIV Activism

19 May 2020, 12:00 - 14:00

Online session

This session has moved online. Open to all. For more information please email Caroline Rusterholz 

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https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85766072359

Meeting ID: 857 6607 2359
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George Severs (University of Cambridge)
'Religious HIV/Aids Activists and the Practical Politics of Overcoming Shame in Late Twentieth-Century England'

Hannah J. Elizabeth (Warwick University)
'“HIV You Must Be Jokin”: Recovering the Everyday Experiences of HIV Status Disclosure in Late Twentieth-Century Edinburgh'

 

Abstracts


George Severs (University of Cambridge)

'Religious HIV/Aids Activists and the Practical Politics of Overcoming Shame in Late Twentieth-Century England'


In February 1987 the Junior Health Minister and Conservative MP Edwina Currie told the Yorkshire Post that ‘good Christian people who wouldn’t dream of misbehaving will not catch AIDS’. At the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when the UK government was involved in what the historian Virginia Berridge has termed a ‘wartime response’, utterances like these were not uncommon. Religious leaders had suggested that the epidemic was a moral rather than a medical crisis, with the Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobvits arguing that condoms might serve to spread HIV and that ‘only a moral revolution can contain this scourge’.

 Recognising the ways in which religiosity and faith-based morality were being mobilised to shame people living with HIV/AIDS, a number of religious activists began organising in opposition. Their aims were numerous, but by thinking about them through the lens of the history of the emotions, we see that religious AIDS activists were primarily concerned with overcoming shame.

 Having established the ways in which shame was used by some religious authorities to establish discourses and cultures which explained HIV/AIDS diagnoses as moral judgments, this paper examines the ways in which groups including the Catholic AIDS Link and the Jewish AIDS Trust agitated for policy changes and shifts in rhetorical tone within their respective religious institutions. Through original oral history interviews and archival research, the paper traces how these groups established spaces for HIV positive people of faith to access information, guidance and networks in ways which affirmed both their faith and their HIV status. In doing so, the paper suggests a new and more nuanced picture of HIV/AIDS activism in late twentieth-century Britain.
 

 
Dr Hannah J. Elizabeth (Warwick University)

'"HIV You Must Be Jokin": Recovering the Everyday Experiences of HIV Status Disclosure in Late Twentieth-Century Edinburgh'


This paper examines the use of texts by social workers which communicated the lived experience of HIV disclosure for women and children living with HIV in Edinburgh in the late 20th century, recovering traces of how ‘the extraordinary affected the ordinary’ (Whatley and Foyster 2010) and vice versa.
Edinburgh as a city was disproportionately affected by the AIDS crisis in the early 1980-1990s, earning it the unhappy title of ‘AIDS Capital of Europe’. Within Edinburgh, women and children were affected by HIV in higher numbers than elsewhere in the UK. Recognising the AIDS crisis in Edinburgh particularly affected women and children, social workers began to seek the voices those affected, in an attempt to produce social work texts and protocols which met their unique needs.  In addition to new training materials for social workers, new spaces were created to care for HIV-affected families such as hospices, community cafes and multi-use centres. This was interdisciplinary collaborative AIDS activism born out of the daily fight for resources, information, space and empathetic treatment. Indeed, the city rapidly became host to numerous charities and organisations scrambling to meet the needs of HIV-affected women and families, aiming to prevent new infections and meet the emotional, medical, housing and educational needs of those already affected by the virus. Social work texts increasingly included interviews, letters, poems, and art produced by those living with the virus who accessed these spaces, offering the potential for disclosure of identities, needs and experiences. However, situated within social work manuals as case studies or illustration, the artistic and activist potential of such testimonial and artistic AIDS objects was highly mediated, the experiences of those living with HIV deployed as object lessons and empathy tools, their consent to be presented thus unclear. A letter or poem in a social work manual was an opportunity to speak out, to disclose and to be recorded yes, but the textual placement and case study presentation style, had the potential to turn such salvos into means rather than ends – experiences to learn from rather than sit with accessed these spaces, offering the potential for disclosure of identities, needs and experiences. However, situated within social work manuals as case studies or illustration, the artistic and activist potential of such testimonial and artistic AIDS objects was highly mediated, the experiences of those living with HIV deployed as object lessons and empathy tools, their consent to be presented thus unclear. A letter or poem in a social work manual was an opportunity to speak out, to disclose and to be recorded yes, but the textual placement and case study presentation style, had the potential to turn such salvos into means rather than ends – experiences to learn from rather than sit with.
 

 

 

An event organised by Health, Medicine and Agency Research Network
Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk


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