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In December 2005, the day after the eighth annual World AIDS Day urged people the world over to “keep the promise” to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a middle-aged HIV-negative man, Al, played his part by walking into an office in downtown San Francisco. As with many of this project’s interviewees, he was driven by a desire to talk about the epidemic among Blacks—just the question posed on the street to prospective interviewees was often enough to elicit a strong response—Would you be willing to talk about your understandings of HIV/AIDS among African Americans? Over the next several hours, Al would recount a vivid narrative of life amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic in San Francisco’s Bayview district—at times irate, at times laughing uncontrollably, at times allowing his strong voice to soften and give way to silence, pausing with the weight of lives lost. I am passionate about this, he says, straightening his long winter coat and gathering his briefcase, not quite ready to return to the complex and devastating world whose logic he has traced with his interviewer. I hope it help, man. Al’s interview was the first of forty-three in-depth qualitative interviews conducted for this book with HIV-negative and HIV-positive Black men and women between December 2005 and July 2006 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Interviews were conducted for my dissertation research project for my doctorate in public health at the University of California, Berkeley. The Bay Area was selected as the location for this study because of the particular urgency of HIV/AIDS among Blacks in this region—indeed Alameda County, the county in which one-third of this study’s interviewees live, was the first county in the nation to declare a state of emergency against HIV/AIDS in 1998. My dissertation sought to explore the context, meaning, and implications of understandings of HIV/AIDS origin among forty-three HIV-negative and HIV-positive Black men and women in the Bay Area. Interviews conducted for this book aimed to elicit narrative descriptions of everyday life and meanings around sexuality and HIV/AIDS, foregrounding the narrative qualities of how those most intimately affected make sense of the epidemic. Through in-depth interviews considered alongside secondary sources (including research literature , popular media, and policy documents), a goal was to investigate what understandings of HIV/AIDS reveal—not just as traced by the people who hold them and the histories they present, but also in terms of what they tell us about 119 Appendix: Methodological Matters public health writ large, the production of sexual subjects, and HIV prevention efforts within public health. This project extends a critique of much of the dominant public health research that locates its analytic and interventionist projects around individual bodies. At the same time, it offers a critique of work that overdetermines either the structural or the local cultural context of people’s lives, presenting an integrative understanding of the inextricable relationships among structure, culture, and human agency through the case example of sexual worlds rendered through HIV/AIDS social theories. How we come to understand HIV—which populations it affects and why, and the various, often contesting meanings it holds—is central to the spread of and responses to the epidemic. The stories in these pages are located at the nexus of phenomenological concerns with the experience of beingin -the-body—embodiment—with an orientation to narrative articulations of power in relation to bodily experience. Indeed, as the “most proximate terrain where social truths and social contradictions are played out . . . as well as a locus of personal and social resistance, creativity and struggle,” the individual body and in particular how it comes to be understood in relation to the social body and body politic figure prominently in understanding what individual experiences of HIV/AIDS can tell us (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987, 31). The in-depth study of sexual stories is a project that has at its core the understanding of very local processes of meaning-making, as well as these processes’ relationships to larger questions of power and history. As such, it is a project that connects present, past, and future, building up theoretical and practical implications in the process. In this way, it enjoins the critical, reflexive engagement of “scientist” with “subject,” while drawing on grounded theory to support the building of theory through the interviews themselves. These methods—explicit efforts to straddle more traditional positivist...


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