New thinking about HIV-negative identity: Experiences of participants in the qualitative arm of the VicPrEP study

Stream: Critical Perspectives on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PReP)
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.45 pm


In this paper we explore what PrEP means to those who take it in relation to biomedicine, sexual practices and HIV prevention approaches. A total of 24 interviews with men were conducted in the VicPrEP study.

The accounts of participants suggested the emergence of a new thinking about HIV-negative identity, with the possibility of experiencing this status as more definite (less ambiguous) than an HIV-negative status in the absence of PrEP. Men on PrEP generally drew on conventional ‘neo-liberal’ framings of risk, where risk is understand to be a causal effect located in individual actors. The identity of ‘Neg and on PrEP’ reinstates this but specifically locates potential risk in assumed HIV-negative men not taking PrEP, thereby positioning themselves as different from – and more responsible than – other HIV-negative men not using condoms.

Being ‘on PrEP’ was associated with divergent approaches to disclosing HIV status. Many men reported that they disclosed their ‘Neg and on PrEP’ status in order to reassure potential sex partners that they presented no risk HIV, others felt less inclined to disclose HIV status than before starting PrEP.

Experiences of disclosure, sex, and testing as reported within the constraints of the study point to an altering experience of HIV in relation to the presence of PrEP, and this warrants a review of conventional methodologies that have relied on notions of ‘identity’ and ‘risk’. Hence PrEP may be considered a new contributor to a dynamic epidemic, opening possibilities for new engagements with prevention.


Dean Murphy (Presenter), Centre for Social Research in Health
Dean is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health. He is interested in biomedical HIV prevention technologies, and he is an investigator on Australia's first study of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Marsha Rosengarten, Goldsmiths, University of London