The social experience of living with HIV as a gay man in Sweden
Abstract: The experience of living as HIV positive constitutes a mixture of social phenomenon which affects individuals in various ways diverging between countries and regions of the world. The purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate how gay men in Sweden’s larger urban cities experience living with the disease, focusing on social exclusion, disclosure decisions and social relations. Using phenomenology, textual data was analysed from in-depth interviews with 14 HIV positive gay men. This research proves that stigma associated with HIV is a major stressor for the individuals serving as a barrier affecting their quality of life. The prevalence of stigma manifests itself via personalised, disclosure decisions, fear, and environmental attitude. Social exclusion was experienced due to being HIV positive and various factors impact disclose decisions, such as second disclosure. Stigma was especially experienced via online communication on dating apps such as Grindr, making it more difficult for the participants to make new connections. A structural change in how gay men have sex has been noticed in line with advancement in medicines, resulting in an increased engagement in unprotected sex. Findings also suggest divided opinions about the obligation to inform while agreeing that the law needs to be modified.
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