Treatment as Prevention (TasP) and governing Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in British Columbia

Date

2012-12-03

Authors

Mollison, Ashley

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Abstract

In 2010, the government of British Columbia (B.C.) dedicated $48 million to stop the spread of HIV. The STOP HIV/AIDS pilot project promotes the uptake of HIV testing in the general population, and the use of antiretroviral therapy amongst those living with HIV/AIDS. This project operates with the rationale of ‘treatment as prevention’ (TasP), meaning that antiretroviral therapy is beneficial for the person living with HIV/AIDS, and has the secondary benefit of reducing the spread of HIV in the general population. Public health discourses are constructed via particular worldviews and involve the creation and delineation of societal problems. Undertaking a discourse analysis, I identify eight dominant discourses of TasP and STOP HIV/AIDS that include: provincial and international support for TasP and lack of federal leadership in HIV/AIDS; TasP, a ‘paradigm shift’ and a ‘game changer;’ TasP as beneficial to the individual and society; human rights and harm reduction; proof and certainty; failure of current prevention efforts; risk discourses; and, finally, universal treatment. I also identify five alternative discourses: holistic understanding/social determinants of health; stigma and discrimination; rights discourse: GIPA, informed consent and self-determination; coercion/criminalization and alternative risk discourse. Through a lens of governmentality, I explicate two overarching and simultaneous discursive strategies in realizing the objective of decreasing the spread of HIV in B.C. The first strategy acts on individuals living with HIV/AIDS, encouraging individuals to take up antiretroviral therapy. The second strategy acts on the general population, informing the population that HIV is a problem, and that treating people living with HIV/AIDS is the best way to protect society as a whole. There are various techniques within these two strategies. These discursive events have immense consequences for the uptake of health policies and programs by the public. The dominant and alternative discourses of TasP impact HIV policy and practice and specifically the individuals living with HIV and AIDS who are the subjects and targets of these initiatives.

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Keywords

Treatment as Prevention, STOP HIV/AIDS, governmentality, HIV/AIDS

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