Accepted Paper:

"Checking the askaries (guards) of my body": testing for HIV and living with CD4 counts and viral loads in Uganda  


Lotte Meinert (Ã…rhus University)

Paper short abstract:

Antiretroviral treatment has been available to many people with HIV in Uganda since 2005. It brings along with it a new range of diagnostic technologies. These provide people with concrete measures for the state of their health. However, alongside these certainties come new uncertainties and the need to develop new kinds of socialities in order to cope with them.

Paper long abstract:

With HIV and its diagnostic technology came new forms of socialities in Uganda during the 80s and 90s. Positive people attempted in various ways to cope with the uncertainties of a certain death. Some joined self-help groups based on open and "positive living". Others chose careful ways of living and loving with shared but unsaid knowledge of their HIV status. Around 2005 Antiretroviral treatment ART became widely available in Uganda and many people have since then returned to lives with hopes and plans for the future and social relationships. Their new life has, however, also brought a new range of uncertainties and vulnerabilities, stemming from the certainty with which the diagnostic technologies of monitoring antiretroviral treatment proclaim the status of a person's life. People now talk about their bodies, their general well-being and their futures in terms of viral loads and CD4 counts which they carefully monitor, rejoice over or worry about. They no longer think of themselves as heading towards a certain death, but as being on a path of uncertain survival. The paper is based on a study on Ugandans living on ART carried out by a team of researchers from Ugandan and Denmark from 2005-2007. In addition we draw upon our long-term experience with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

Panel IW02
Rethinking the body: biotechnology and sociality