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From stigmatisation to criminalisation: an exploratory study of the views on the criminalisation of HIV sexual transmission in England

Chollier, Marie (2018) From stigmatisation to criminalisation: an exploratory study of the views on the criminalisation of HIV sexual transmission in England. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis investigated the intricacies of moral, conative, and cognitive contents, in the context of the criminalisation of HIV transmission and HIV stigma. Though HIV is a rather recent challenge with its outbreak placed during the late 70s and early 80s, HIV-related stigma, social seclusion, and legal repression are well-studied phenomena. Despite being an epiphenomenon, the criminalisation of HIV transmission appears to be disproportionately focused on; sometimes, it is also denounced as a form of stigma. To disentangle structural, institutional, social, and individual aspects of the criminalisation of HIV transmission, an interdisciplinary approach based on constructionist realism was chosen, drawn upon philosophical, psychological and socio-legal works, through descriptive reviews and critical syntheses. The multifaceted phenomena of both stigma and criminalisation required a layered or intersectional approach leading to a mixed-method study. This study investigated the views of participants from both key-informants and the general public on the topic of the criminalisation of HIV transmission. This mixed-methods study was designed to assess the impact of stigma research on participants and to consider its potential deleterious impact. Results highlighted that stigmatising views were associated with pro-criminalisation attitudes. The qualitative inquiry showed discrepancies between the rationales and principles invoked by participants and their different moral stances. The responsive analysis indicated potential prosocial effects of the study on participants and showed an increase of perceived stigma subscale scores among the participants from the public. This was interpreted as a familiarisation effect of the study and a secondary positive outcome. A sub-sample of participants showed increased blaming subscale scores, highlighting the ethical challenges of stigma research. Results were discussed in terms of knowledge and disclosure, in light of the primacy of moral ontological and epistemological aspects. Recommendations regarding stigma research were suggested in terms of longitudinal design, assessment reactivity, and/or evaluation of impact.

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