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The paper focuses on the ways in which medical discourses of HIV transmission risk, personal bodily meanings and reproductive decision-making are re-negotiated within the context of sero-different relationships, in which one partner is known to be HIV-positive. Eighteen in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 individuals in Northern Ireland during 2008-2009. Drawing on an embodied sociological approach, the findings show that physical pleasure, love, commitment, a desire to conceive without medical interventions and a dislike of condoms within regular ongoing relationships, shaped individuals' sense of biological risk. In addition, the subjective logic that a partner had not previously become infected through unprotected sex prior to knowledge of HIV status and the added security of an undetectable viral load significantly impacted upon women's and, especially, men's decisions to have unprotected sex in order to conceive. The findings speak to the importance of reframing public health campaigns and clinical counselling discourses on HIV risk transmission to acknowledge how couples negotiate this risk, alongside pleasure and commitment within ongoing relationships.

Original publication




Journal article


Cult Health Sex

Publication Date





815 - 827


Adult, Family Planning Services, Female, HIV Infections, HIV Seroprevalence, Health Behavior, Health Status, Humans, Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical, Middle Aged, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Pregnancy, Qualitative Research, Risk Assessment, Risk-Taking, Tape Recording