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Radical Pleasure: Feminist Digital Storytelling by, with, and for Women Living with HIV

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  • Allison Carter
  • Florence Anam
  • Margarite Sanchez
  • Juno Roche
  • S. T. Wynne
  • Just Stash
  • Kath Webster
  • Valerie Nicholson
  • Sophie Patterson
  • Angela Kaida
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/01/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Archives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number1
Volume50
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)83-103
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date24/11/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Despite the fact that HIV can be controlled with medication to undetectable levels where it cannot be passed on, stigmatization of women living with HIV persists. Such stigmatization pivots on stereotypes around sex and sexism and has force in women’s lives. Our aim was to create an inspirational resource for women living with HIV regarding sex, relationships, and sexuality: www.lifeandlovewithhiv.ca (launched in July 2018). This paper describes the development and mixed-method evaluation of our first year and a half activities. We situated our work within a participatory arts-based knowledge translation planning framework and used multiple data sources (Google Analytics, stories and comments on the website, team reflections over multiple meetings) to report on interim outcomes and impacts. In our first 1.5 years, we recruited and mentored 12 women living with HIV from around the world (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Spain, Nigeria, and the U.S.) to write their own stories, with the support of a mentor/editor, as a way of regaining control of HIV narratives and asserting their right to have pleasurable, fulfilling, and safer sexual lives. Writers published 43 stories about pleasure, orgasm, bodies, identities, trauma, resilience, dating, disclosure, self-love, and motherhood. Our social media community grew to 1600, and our website received approximately 300 visits per month, most by women (70%) and people aged 25–44 years (65%), from more than 50 cities globally, with shifts in use and demographics over time. Qualitative data indicated the power of feminist digital storytelling for opportunity, access, validation, and healing, though not without risks. We offer recommendations to others interested in using arts-based digital methods to advance social equity in sexual health.