Shame, Stigma and HIV – Considering Affective Climates and the Phenomenology of Shame Anxiety
The affective climate often associated with HIV prevention and care practices is often dominated by negative emotions such as shame, fear and suspicion which arise because of HIV’s historical stigma.
In this special issue of lambda nordica on Queering Health and Biomedicine, which showcases scholarship from the Nordic Network Gender, Body, Health, guest editor Luna Dolezal’s article ‘Shame, Stigma and HIV – Considering Affective Climates and the Phenomenology of Shame Anxiety‘ explores the experiential consequences of this affective climate and the continued stigma associated with HIV, through a focus on the experience of shame anxiety which can be understood as the chronic anticipation of shame or shameful exposure. Exploring first person narratives of gay men living with HIV, the article gives an account of how shame anxiety is central to understanding how stigma causes harm, especially in experiences of chronic illnesses such as HIV. Using a philosophical framework, through phenomenology, it demonstrates how shame anxiety manifests in bodily lived experience through the structure of the “horizon”. The article finishes with reflections on how shame anxiety can act as a barrier to the effective delivery of health services for those with stigmatised chronic illnesses and, furthermore, why the experience of shame anxiety might be useful to consider when delivering health services.