Applying an intersectional lens

In the last topic we looked at some of the common psychosocial needs of older people living with HIV.

Even though these needs and experiences may be common, how they are experienced can be very different for different groups.

For example, people who have been living with HIV for a long time are most likely to cite the impacts of trauma and stigma.

People struggling to make ends meet are more likely to worry about the cost of services than people who are financially well-off.

As we discussed, stigma and discrimination are common among older people living with HIV. But research shows that overlapping identities can also impact feelings of internalised or self-directed stigma.

In the US for example, Hispanic/Latina women and transgender people of colour are much more likely to show signs of internalised stigma than white men.[1]

These research findings highlight the importance of intersectionality. This concept wasfirst introduced in Module 0 (HIV Core Knowledge).


Watch this video What is intersectionality? (2:48):

Intersectionality refers to how different parts of a person’s identity can expose them to different forms of discrimination. They can also expose people to different forms of privilege.

Privilege means a special right or advantage given to one group over another. It is usually associated with dominant groups or world views. They get to set the “rules”.

The image below shows the many factors that can create experiences of discrimination and privilege.

Figure 4: Dimensions of intersectionality, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)

Intersectionality helps us understand how different groups may be viewed by others. It can also help us understand how they may view themselves.

For older people from different groups living with HIV, these experiences shape their needs and preferences.

In the next topic we will also explore how these experiences can create unique barriers to support.

These are further reasons why the role of Peer Navigators is so important.

The ability for an older person living with HIV to connect with another person with shared lived experience is critical to their sense of self. It helps support a culturally safe space. It helps deliver better overall health and wellbeing.

Reflective Question

Choose one ‘slice’ from the Wheel of power / privilege (below) (e.g. Ability).

How would an older person with HIV experience life differently at the centre of the wheel (e.g. ‘able-bodied’) compared to someone on the outside of the wheel (e.g. ‘significant disability’)?

How might these differences in experience influence their needs or access to care and support?

[1] Baugher, A. et al. (2017). Prevalence of internalized HIIV-related stigma among HIV-infected adults in care, United States, 2011-2013.

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