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The effect of gender of HIV-related stigma and discrimination : cases from Turkey

Aşar Brown, Serap
This study explores the effect of gender on HIV-related stigma and discrimination with selected cases from Turkey and examines ‘normalized sexuality’ (i.e., conformity to sexual norms in Turkish society) as a moderating factor. In this regard, both qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques have been utilized, namely; (i) in-depth interviews with HIV positive women and men with different sexual lives, and (ii) a survey conducted at the University of Istanbul among dentistry students. The main quantitative findings of the research include (i) sexual loyalty of a woman was found as a determinant for HIV-related stigma and discrimination; (ii) female respondents discriminated people living with HIV on the basis of normalized sexuality; and (iii) male respondents discriminated on the basis of sex of the person living with HIV. A surprising secondary finding was that the sexual orientation of an HIV positive male did not significantly affect the amount of discrimination. These quantitative findings were also supported by the qualitative findings and all were analyzed with a gender perspective. Gender norms and sexual behaviors in Turkish society are shaped strongly by the patriarchal power structures, and stigma and discrimination act as control mechanisms to sustain this structure. It is thus argued that the prevailing patriarchal values and norms need to be examined in order to effectively challenge HIV-related stigma and discrimination.