HIV/AIDS and Sexuality: International and Local Perspectives

Monday 1 December 2014, World AIDS day

Rocque Lab, Rhetoric Building, South Campus, Maynooth University, 1-4 pm

Organised by Professor Gerry Kearns (Geography), Dr Paul Ryan (Sociology) and Dr Thomas Strong (Anthropology)

Sponsored by Department of Geography, Global and Community Health Research Cluster, Space & Place Research Collaborative, Maynooth Students Union Welfare and Equality Office, Maynooth University Pride Society

Open to all.

World AIDS day event

[to download a poster click on the image above]

For World AIDS day, Maynooth University will host the leading Researcher from Africa’s largest health promotion NGO specifically concerned with the needs of Men Who have Sex with Men. This remains an important part of the global AIDS pandemic. In Durban perhaps half of the men who have sex with men are infected with HIV. In Johannesburg and Cape Town, the figure is about a quarter. In London UK, about one in eight gay men are infected with HIV. For the Republic of Ireland, in 2013 about half the persons newly diagnosed as infected with HIV were men who have sex with men (for a discussion of the situation in Ireland, see this blog on Homophobia and HIV Vulnerability). Dr Tucker will talk about research from South Africa documenting the insidious links between silence, homophobia, depression and the risk-taking that allows infection. His talk will be followed by contributions from Irish researchers about these issues both in Ireland and abroad. There will, finally, be an open discussion about how these matters affect the campus community at Maynooth.

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1:00. Dr Andrew Tucker, ‘HIV prevention, treatment and care for MSM in South Africa: Lessons learned from Health4Men’

2.00. Panel: HIV prevention and sexuality: The local and the global.

Fiona Larkan, ‘When the system is the barrier: Adherence to ART’

Patrick Murphy, ‘HIV-related Stigma and Disclosure in Dublin’s Gay Community’

Cormac O’Brien, ‘Gay Men and Ireland in the Age of AIDS: The Cultural Politics of Stigma’

3.00. Open Discussion: HIV, sexuality and the university community at Maynooth

HIV testing in Ireland


Andrew Tucker – HIV prevention, treatment and care for MSM in South Africa: Lessons learned from Health4Men

It is now appreciated that ‘Men who have Sex with Men’ (MSM) are a particularly vulnerable and often clandestine HIV risk population in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the vast majority of resources to tackle the HIV epidemic in the region over the past 30 years have been focused on heterosexual spread. This lecture will highlight the strides now being made by Health4Men, a project of the Anova Health Institute (funded by USAID, PEPFAR and the Elton John AIDS Foundation), in South Africa, as it engages with the social, cultural and political dynamics that make MSM a particularly hard group to access, assist and service. Drawing on a series of research and operational programmes undertaken by Health4Men, it will discuss some of the ground breaking approaches deployed by the project, as its activities grow to encompass all of South Africa and the broader region.

Patrick Murphy – Stigma and Disclosure in Dublin’s Gay Community

This presentation will highlight how HIV-related stigma in Dublin’s gay community inhibits disclosure of seropositivity in the context of casual sex encounters. It will also show how disclosure is thought of in terms of identity revelation rather than as a transmission reduction strategy.

Cormac O’Brien – Gay Men and Ireland in the Age of AIDS: The Cultural Politics of Stigma 

Queer sexualities and official Irish national culture – as represented through the nation’s drama, literature, and on various programming streams on RTÉ – have always had tense, uneasy relationships. Nowhere is this more evident than in the representation of gay men who live with or die from HIV and AIDS. Apart from a tiny handful of fringe queer theatre makers, the majority of such representations are laden with tropes of hiddenness and victimhood, sickness and death, and a paradoxical mixture of punishment and pity. In more recent years, several such representations wilfully ignore the free availability of antiretroviral drugs in Ireland by presenting anachronistic and demagogic AIDS imagery that, this paper argues, is bound up in subtextual homophobia, xenophobia, and class-shaming. HIV-related stigma, then, particularly in relation to gay men and queer sexualities, has become culturally normalized to such an extent that it goes unremarked and unchallenged, with such representations becoming invisible by their very pervasiveness. This paper raises several questions about the cultural entrenchment and normalization of HIV-related stigma, particularly in terms of the effects of neoliberal hyper-consumerism on gay communities, and the ways in which neoliberalism sanctions certain bodies and lives as respectable while simultaneously seeking to usher others out of public sight.


Fiona Larkan is a Medical Anthropologist with a particular interest in the social aspects of HIV and Chronic Illness in Ireland and South Africa. Her PhD focused on Sexuality, Risk and Choice in middle class communities in South Africa and Ireland. Based at the Centre for Global Health, Trinity College Dublin, as Director of the MSc Global Health, Fiona is also affiliated with the School of Public Health at University of the Western Cape in South Africa. A graduate of Maynooth University, she has conducted research amongst PLWHA in South Africa for over 12 years, most recently on a three-year ethnographic project, which looked at barriers to adherence to antiretroviral treatment. Her Irish-based research has included work with ME/CFS sufferers, and HIV risk amongst hard-to-reach populations. Fiona is also editor of the Irish Journal of Anthropology, and has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals.

Patrick Murphy  is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Psychological Health, in the School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin. He researches the processes that impact on disclosure of HIV seropositivity during casual sex encounters among gay men. In the journal, AIDS and Behaviour, he has published on the way that the stigma associated with different modes of HIV infection affects the chances of people implementing beneficial changes in their lives after the trauma of an HIV diagnosis.

Cormac O’Brien has recently completed his PhD, entitled ‘Acting the Man: Performing Masculinities in Contemporary Irish Theatre’ at the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin, where he teaches part-time. Working primarily in contemporary Irish and British theatre, Cormac researches queer theatre and queer histories, and gender and sexuality in performance. Dr O’Brien’s postdoctoral project is ‘Ireland in the Age of AIDS: The Cultural Politcs of Stigma,’ and investigates how HIV and AIDS, and the bodies they occupy and the lives they affect, are represented in performance. Cormac has published several essays and book chapters in edited collections and journals such as Irish University ReviewTheatre Research InternationalIrish Theatre International, and The Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies.

Andrew Tucker is a Senior Research Specialist at Health4Men. Prior to joining Health4Men, Dr Tucker was the Deputy Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies. He completed his PhD on the interface between sexuality and race in South Africa while at Cambridge in 2006. His monograph Queer Visibilities was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2009. He has also published widely in geography and medical journals.






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