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Lay constructions of HIV and complementary therapy use


  • Pawluch, Dorothy
  • Cain, Roy
  • Gillett, James


This study examines the meanings that individuals with HIV attach to their use of complementary therapies. A qualitative analysis of 66 interviews completed between 1993 and 1998 showed that complementary therapies represent different things for these individuals -- a health maintenance strategy, a healing strategy, an alternative to Western medicine, a way of mitigating the side-effects of drug therapies, a strategy for maximizing quality of life, a coping strategy, and a form of political resistance. We found that the meanings individuals ascribe to complementary therapies and the benefits they expect to derive from them are not idiosyncratic, but linked to social characteristics -- sexuality, ethnocultural background, gender -- and to beliefs about health and illness, values and experiences. We found as well that these meanings are neither mutually exclusive nor fixed. The therapies often appeal to individuals on different levels and their appeal may change over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Pawluch, Dorothy & Cain, Roy & Gillett, James, 2000. "Lay constructions of HIV and complementary therapy use," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 251-264, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:51:y:2000:i:2:p:251-264

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    Cited by:

    1. Braun, Virginia, 2008. ""She'll be right"? National identity explanations for poor sexual health statistics in Aotearoa/New Zealand," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(11), pages 1817-1825, December.
    2. Doran, Evan & Robertson, Jane & Henry, David, 2005. "Moral hazard and prescription medicine use in Australia--the patient perspective," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(7), pages 1437-1443, April.
    3. Thomas, Felicity & Aggleton, Peter & Anderson, Jane, 2010. "'Experts', 'partners' and 'fools': Exploring agency in HIV treatment seeking among African migrants in London," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 736-743, March.
    4. Hök, Johanna & Wachtler, Caroline & Falkenberg, Torkel & Tishelman, Carol, 2007. "Using narrative analysis to understand the combined use of complementary therapies and bio-medically oriented health care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(8), pages 1642-1653, October.


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