Yuan-Chin Chang Dissertation


Reconstructing HIV – Serodiscordant Couples Relationships
Relational Understanding for HIV and Serodiscordant Couples in Taiwan


Serodiscordant couples, in which one partner has human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the other does not, are hidden in Taiwanese society. Because of HIV stigmatization, serodiscordant relationships are an unrecognized, unblessed, and unspeakable type of relationship. The majority of Taiwanese research concerning HIV-serodiscordant couples has focused on HIV-serostatus disclosure strategies, disease prevention, reproductive issues, and challenges for romantic couples caused by HIV. Studies have rarely emphasized the strengths, resilience, and possibilities of couples in these relationships.

From the perspective of social constructionism, illness experiences are socially constructed, and people co-create the meanings of illnesses in relationships. In this research, I endeavored to understand how serodiscordant couples interpret the meaning of HIV in their relationships. This research was conducted as a qualitative investigation using social constructionism concepts and collaborative narrative inquiry methods.

Diverging from previous research that observed that noninfected partners were usually the caregivers in these relationships, in this study several infected participants were caregivers and comforters for their noninfected partners because the infected partners had more experience living with HIV. Noninfected partners felt less worried when they saw their partners living with HIV with optimism, positivity, bravery, and a relaxed attitude. The expert knowledge of the infected partners comforted their noninfected partners, confounding the patient–caregiver dichotomy in the dominant discourse. Finally, participants suggested that Taiwan needs more social resources for noninfected partners in serodiscordant relationships and that the experiences of more serodiscordant couples should be shared with the public.