Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Linda M. Whiteford


Brazil, citizenship, HIV/AIDS, risk, serodiscordance


The objective of this research was to develop a holistic understanding of how risk, especially the risk of HIV transmission, is constructed and negotiated in the daily lives of a group of heterosexual, HIV-serodiscordant couples in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Couples serodiscordant for HIV are those in which one partner is infected and the other is not. Data were gathered through participant observation and semi-structured interviews with serodiscordant couples, as well as key informants in HIV/AIDS-related civil society, government, and biomedical practitioners in Porto Alegre. Interviews were recorded and transcribed and relevant study materials were coded and subjected to thematic and ethnographic discourse analysis. Many studies of HIV/AIDS assume that risk is a natural fact, objectively verifiable and meaningfully quantitative, but this dissertation problematized such constructions, seeing risk for HIV and the condition of serodiscordance as contingent and polysemic. This research also examined participating couples' experiences with HIV for evidence of commodification or practices of biomedically-mediated citizenship.

The main finding of this study indicates that the sociocultural management of seropositivity is much more challenging than its relatively unproblematic biomedical management might lead one to expect, primarily due to the pervasiveness of AIDS-related stigma. Participating serodiscordant couples evidenced attempts to manage this stigma through recourse to a suite of linguistic strategies I call the "semantic quarantine," which discursively isolates the relationship and its constituent members from lexical elements associated with stigmatized identities. The ultimate goal of the quarantine is to create a reality where these couples' intimate relationships are stripped of their threatening connotations, and constitute a "livable love."