Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 1527–1541 | Cite as

When HIV Figures in Family Life: Exploring the Relational Reach of Serodiscordance

  • Christy NewmanEmail author
  • Asha Persson
  • Jeanne Ellard
Original Paper


Social research has been building an increasingly powerful challenge to the public health framing of HIV serodiscordance as pertaining only to sexual transmission risk within couple relationships. Aligned with this critique, our qualitative research with couples of mixed HIV status in New South Wales, Australia, revealed that serodiscordance held relational and cultural meanings which extended beyond the couple domain, encompassing a range of other relationships and issues, particularly those pertaining to families. A deductive thematic analysis of the data on families within these interviews revealed two major themes, disclosing serodiscordance to extended family members, and pursuing serodiscordant parenthood, which presented different challenges for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. We conclude that, despite incredible advances in the medical management of HIV, there continue to be diverse implications of serodiscordance within both intimate and extended family relationships. Understanding the implications of disclosing serodiscordance beyond the couple relationship, and recognising the complex intersections between the public and private dimensions of serodiscordance, offer promising ways forward in supporting families affected by HIV in settings which are culturally comparable to Australia.


HIV infection Serodiscordance Family relationships Sexualities Qualitative research Australia 



We are very grateful to the participants who so generously shared their stories so that others could learn from their experiences of serodiscordant relationships. This work was supported by the New South Wales Ministry of Health. The Centre for Social Research in Health receives funding from UNSW Arts and Social Sciences, and from the Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Social Research in HealthUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Federation of AIDS OrganisationsSydneyAustralia

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