Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 657–673 | Cite as

‘HIV Both Starts and Stops with Me’: Configuring the Neoliberal Sexual Actor in HIV Prevention

  • Tony SandsetEmail author
Original Paper


This article argues that newer HIV prevention campaigns and health promotions that focus on reaching the public with information on how to prevent HIV infections or treat them once a person becomes HIV positive are mainly built upon the rationale of what has been called ‘a neoliberal sexual actor’. The sexual actor being represented is predicated upon the tenets of a neoliberal subject wherein market choice, rational risk analysis, personal responsibility, and personal entrepreneurship are in focus. Whereas many of the newer health promotions are built upon the tenets of neoliberalism, these health promotions while being both inclusive in terms of sexualities and racialized identities nevertheless play on neoliberal ideals that may or may not be available for the people who are most vulnerable in terms of HIV risk. The article ends up by arguing that while many of these health promotions are both ‘sex-positive’ and avoid the specter of ‘risk’ and ‘infection’ and rather play on neoliberal concepts, they nevertheless also leave behind those that for whatever reasons cannot comply with or access these tenets. In an era when the HIV effort strongly plays on a rhetoric of ‘leaving no one behind’ such an overt focus on the neoliberal concepts of free choice, market freedom, personal responsibility, and ‘rational’ risk calculation, might end up leaving behind the most vulnerable people within the HIV epidemic.


HIV/AIDS Neoliberalism PrEP Prevention Health promotions 



I would like to thank the journal editor as well as the anonymous reviewer who gave invaluable advice and whose comments really lifted the article as a whole.


This study was done in connection to post-doctoral research work at the place of employment of the author, but no specific funding grant was funding this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest


Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine, Institute for Health and SocietyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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