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‘The own’ and ‘the wise’ as social support for older people living with HIV in the United Kingdom

  • Dana Rosenfeld (a1) and Jane Anderson (a2)


As the HIV population ages, how the ageing and HIV experiences intersect to shape the lives of older people living with HIV (PLWH) becomes an increasingly pressing question. This multi-method study investigated social support, mental health and quality of life among 100 older PLWH in the United Kingdom. Drawing on data from three focus groups and 74 life-history interviews with older (aged 50+) White men who have sex with men (MSM), and Black African and White heterosexual men and women, living with HIV, we explore participants’ distinctions between, evaluations of and access to sources of social support. Participants distinguished between support from the HIV-negative (Goffman's ‘the own’) and experientially based support from other PLWH (Goffman's ‘the wise’), and viewed the former, while valuable, as needing to be supplemented by the latter. Furthermore, access to experientially based support varied across participant groups, whose communities had different histories with HIV/AIDS and thus different degrees of knowledge about HIV and avenues for connecting to other PLWH. Thus, social support among older PLWH cannot be neatly divided into ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ domains, or fully appreciated by applying traditional social support measures, including, in the context of health conditions, ‘peer support’ created through formal service organisations. Rather, older PLWH's own distinctions and evaluations better illuminate the complexities of social support in the context of ageing with HIV.


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HALL Team: Jose Catalan, Damien Ridge and Valerie Delpech



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Ageing & Society
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  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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