Confessional Technologies and the Will to Disclose: Mobilizing Emotions and Lived Experience in AIDS Service Organizations in Canada

Abstract

This research highlights how frontline workers in the HIV/AIDS sector in Canada mobilize the confessional as a technology of governance to encourage changes in the sexual health and safety and disclosure practices of HIV-positive men and women. The ways in which frontline workers counsel clients are especially important in light of Canada’s aggressive growth in criminal prosecutions against individuals for failing to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners. Drawing on 62 semi-structured interviews with AIDS service organization (ASO) staff from across Canada, we suggest that the work performed by ASO workers constitutes a form of bioethics on the ground, which is rooted in both the worker’s and the client’s lived experiences of HIV. It can be especially fraught if the lived experience is mobilized in ways that are ultimately disempowering for clients who do not relate to the individual’s disclosure narrative.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It is important to note that 72% of Canadian nondisclosure cases between 1989 and 2010 involved heterosexual male perpetrators (Mykhalovskiy and Betteridge, 2012). While this might reflect law’s prejudice in terms of who is an ideal victim/perpetrator, it also suggests that men who have sex with men embrace neoliberal sexual health responsibilities more completely than do heterosexual couples, who appear to be more likely to seek punishment for and to feel wronged by nondisclosure.

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Correspondence to Jennifer M. Kilty.

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We received approval from the University of Ottawa’s Research Ethics Board in January 2014.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Funding

This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [grant number 220829-190399-2001].

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

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

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Kilty, J.M., Orsini, M. Confessional Technologies and the Will to Disclose: Mobilizing Emotions and Lived Experience in AIDS Service Organizations in Canada. Sex Res Soc Policy 14, 434–444 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-016-0269-2

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Keywords

  • Bioethics
  • HIV nondisclosure
  • Confessional
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Emotions