Publications & Reports

Logics of control and self-management in narratives of people living with HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

Bryant J, Smith AKJ, Persson A, Valentine K, Drysdale K, Wallace J, Hamilton M, Newman CE
Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW, Sydney, NSW, Australia.


In Australia, the response to HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B has largely been through the constructed category of ‘blood borne viruses’ which treats these viruses as an interconnected set of conditions with respect to their mode of transmission. In this paper, we explore how people understand their viral infection, and compare the logics underpinning these different understandings. In-depth interviews were conducted with 61 participants who were either living with a blood borne virus or were the family members of people living with them. Our analysis reveals that the viral infection was often described as ‘just a condition that needs to be managed’, albeit in potentially exhausting ways. This understanding hinged upon a biomedical logic in which viral invasion was seen as causing illness and in turn necessitating biomedical intervention. In contrast, some participants with hepatitis B presented their infection as a condition unintelligible through Western biomedical logics, defined instead by symptomology - in terms of ‘liver disease’, and/or ‘liver inflammation’. This focus on symptomology calls into question the soundness of prevention and management responses to hepatitis B based in biomedical logics and reveals the extent to which living with a virus involves multiple, sometimes incompatible, cultural logics. The different logics underpinning HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B reveal shortcomings of framing these viruses together as a coherent single construct.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: Culture, Health & Sexuality
  • Published: 07/01/2023
  • Volume: Epub ahead of print