Fleeing the fire: transformation and gendered belonging in Thai HIV/AIDS support groups

Chris Lyttleton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


By the turn of the millennium, HIV had infected nearly one million people in Thailand. A large number of support groups now exist throughout the country. These groups have emerged as the primary forum through which having HIV is negotiated and normalized in Thai society. This is done by allowing members to publicly refashion their sense of self and its appropriate place in the world. However, the moral and social space created by support groups is not without its own structuring principles. The discursive strategies that shape support groups are embedded within local moral economies and frameworks of meaning. Gender and social identity are significant factors that influence the benefits to be gained from belonging. To date, women markedly outnumber men in most groups, and many members regard masculinity as a constraining factor on male participation. Within support groups, unwillingness to join is considered one reason for the perception that men with HIV seem to die sooner than do women with HIV. Clinically true or not, this belief has major ramifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-40
Number of pages40
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004


  • Gender
  • Social transformation
  • Stigma
  • Support groups
  • Thailand


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