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The "moral career" of perinatally HIV-infected children: revisiting Goffman's concept


Cruz ML, Bastos FI, Darmont M, Dickstein P, Monteiro S.

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​HIV-infected children usually live in vulnerable situations, experiencing discrimination and stigma commonly felt by other people living with HIV/AIDS. The present study aims to analyse primary socialisation of HIV-infected children and adolescents recruited from a public health service in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) as a social process that shapes a new generation of stigmatised and vulnerable persons. Research was informed by an interactionist perspective, focusing on key aspects of HIV-infected children and adolescents life histories under the conceptual frame of Erving Goffman's theories regarding "moral careers". Goffman defines the making of a moral career as the process through which a person learns that she/he possesses a particular attribute, which may lead her/him to be discredited by members of the surrounding society. We have identified aspects of life histories of HIV-vertically infected children and adolescents for each aspect of "moral career" as described by Goffman, relating them to as family structure, the experience of living HIV within the family, and the position and family role of a given subject. The patterns of "moral career" proposed by Goffman in 1963 were useful in identifying components of HIV-related stigma among children and adolescents. These include gender and social disadvantages, difficulty in coping with a child with a potentially severe disease, orphanhood, abandonment, adoption and disclosure of one's HIV serostatus. Primary socialisation of HIV-infected children and adolescents is a key piece of the complex HIV/AIDS-labelling process that could be targeted by interventions aiming to decrease stigma and marginalisation. Health care workers and stakeholders should be committed to ensuring education and guaranteeing the legal rights of this specific population, including the continuous provision of quality health care, full access to school and support to full disclosure of HIV diagnosis.




Adolescents/Youth; Intervention; Stigma


Created at 8/1/2014 11:28 AM by Davis, Gregory P
Last modified at 8/1/2014 11:28 AM by Davis, Gregory P