Beyond the health-related: Exploring the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS using the capability framework of Amartya Sen

Stream: Living with HIV
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 11.15 am – 1.00 pm


Quality of life research on People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) often consists of health-related quality of life studies, which imply a focus on PLWHA as patients or clinical cases, rather than as social actors with individual, social and economic rights who experience freedoms and constraints to fulfil valued social roles and achieve desired social statuses. This paper proposes a complementary approach to the investigation of the quality of life of PLWHA known as the ‘capability framework’, which was founded by the economist Amartya Sen and which suggests that quality of life should be measured by focusing on people’s capabilities, namely their real opportunities to lead the life that they have reason to value. The paper introduces the capability framework and contextualises its definition of quality of life against other relevant concepts, such as wellbeing, and alternative approaches to quality of life. It therefore proposes an operationalisation of the concept of capabilities through a fourfold model of people’s experiences of opportunities in everyday life, which is used to assess a specific material aspect of the quality of life of PLWHA, i.e. their housing conditions. The analyses of this dimension of quality of life are undertaken using data from the HIV Futures V Survey, an Australian nationwide survey of various clinical and social aspects of the lives of PLWHA. The analyses show how the proposed fourfold model of opportunities can help to cast new light on the relationships between the personal and social opportunities of PLWHA and their quality of life.


Gianfranco Giuntoli (Presenter), Social Policy Research Centre
Dr Gianfranco Giuntoli is a Research Associate at the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia. His research interests lie in the study of quality of life, with a particular focus on the ways in which social and policy factors affect people’s intra-personal and inter-personal experiences of well-being, their implications for individuals’ and groups’ resilience, and the connections between employment transitions and mental well-being.