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“We Live Just Like a Normal Family”: Exploring Local Renderings of the Global HIV Normalisation Discourse Among Serodiscordant Couples in Papua New Guinea.

Persson A, Kelly-Hanku A, Mek A, Mitchell E, R Nake Trumb, Worth H, Bell S.

  • Published 09 Aug 2022

  • Volume 27

  • Pagination 19-37

  • DOI 10.1007/s12119-022-10001-x


The contemporary global discourse of “HIV normalisation” is intimately linked to the scientific consensus that, with effective antiretroviral therapy, an “undetectable” viral load renders HIV “non-infectious” and “untransmittable” between sexual partners. Beyond this correlation, HIV normality is rarely defined, leaving the impression that it is an objective and universally applicable phenomenon. But what does normality mean in settings where these concepts are not widely known or part of local understandings of HIV? Our research in Papua New Guinea with “serodiscordant” couples (one partner has HIV, but not the other) found that while HIV normality was a widespread narrative, it pivoted on culturally specific values and expectations, not on undetectability. We argue that narrow assumptions of what constitutes “HIV normalisation” limit our capacity to understand how global discourses can translate and manifest in local contexts and with what consequences for personal lives, relationships, and the epidemic.