Manufacturing disability: HIV, women and the construction of difference

Nursing Philosophy 10 (1):42-52 (2009)
In 1998, the US Supreme Court first held that asymptomatic HIV infection constituted a disability when it ruled on the case of Bragdon v. Abbott . The use of yet another label (disabled) to identify women living with HIV has been rarely (if ever) questioned. While we do value the use of this label as an anti-discriminatory strategy, we believe that there is a need to examine how language and more specifically, the use of words such as disability, limitation, and impairment may create new forms of identities for women living with HIV. Using this legal case as a starting point, the goal of this paper is to critically examine the 'fabrication' of asymptomatic HIV infection as a disability. Grounded in a feminist poststructuralist perspective, this paper exposes the relationship between language, social institutions, subjectivity, and power in the construction of difference. By doing so, it addresses the identification of women living with HIV/AIDS as disabled and the self-differentiation process that they must go through in order to live as normally as possible.
Keywords women  HIV  critique  poststructuralism  feminism  disability
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