Culture, health & sexuality 2017 05 18() 1-15 doi 10.1080/13691058.2017.1323350
In this study, we explore how individuals living with HIV in the Dominican Republic strive to live a ‘normal’ life and the consequences of this pursuit of normalcy. We conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with men (n = 20) and women (n = 20) living with HIV and receiving care at two urban clinics in Santo Domingo. We analysed the data using a combination of narrative analysis and thematic coding. We aimed to identify how fears and/or lived experiences with social rejection and HIV-related stigma and discrimination shaped participants’ abilities to maintain social relationships, be economically productive and manage HIV within the context of sexual relationships. Participants used the discourse of una vida normal (a normal life) to frame their response to HIV. This pursuit of normality was driven by the social and economic pressures of living with a chronic condition in a context of HIV-related stigma; trying to keep things ‘normal’ further added to these pressures. We argue that the normal life discourse fails to recognise the dynamic and complex nature of negotiating this condition and may also create additional burdens for individuals living with HIV that could impact their wellbeing and preventive behaviours.