Tempering Hope with Intimate Knowledge: Contrasting emergences of the concept ‘uninfectious’ in HIV

Peter Keogh*, Catherine A Dodds

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper, we contrast two emergences of the concept of ‘uninfectious’ (that pharmaceuticals can render someone living with HIV non‐infectious) in HIV. First, using Novas’ framing of ‘political economies of hope’, we describe the deployment of ‘uninfectious’ as part of global health campaigns. Second, we draw on Raffles’ (International Social Science Journal, 2002, 54, 325) concept of ‘intimate knowledge’ to theorise our own account of ‘uninfectious’ through a re‐analysis of qualitative data comprising the intimate experiences of people living with or around HIV collected at various points over the last 25 years. Framed as intimate knowledge, ‘uninfectious’ becomes known through people’s multiple engagements with and developing understandings of HIV over a prolonged period. As contingent and specific, intimate knowledge does not register within the biomedical/scientific ontological system that underpins discourses of hope employed in global campaigns. The concept of intimate knowledge offers the potential to critique discourses of hope in biomedicine problematising claims to universality whilst enriching biomedical understandings with accounts of affective, embodied experience. Intimate knowledge may also provide a bridge between different epistemological traditions in the sociology of health and illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1100-1116
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number5
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was conducted as part of a Wellcome Trust funded study (1104522/Z/15/Z) which aimed to prepare 12 qualitative data sets collected between 1997 and 2016 for inclusion in the ESRC data archive and to conduct an initial re-analysis across them. These data sets contain accounts of the intimate lives of 612 people collected at different points in the UK HIV epidemic (names removed for review). A methodological paper on this study has been published elsewhere (Dodds et al., 2020).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for SHIL (SHIL).

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Research in Health and Social Care


  • (Bio) medicalisation
  • embodiment
  • intimacy
  • secondary analysis (qualitative)
  • sociology of scientific knowledge


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