Viral Subjects: Stigma, Civil Society Activism, and the Making of HIV/AIDS in Lebanon

Date of Award

Fall 10-1-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Inhorn, Marcia


This dissertation examines HIV/AIDS in Lebanon. It asks how people living with this illness do so in light of civil society activism to overcome social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and related issues. The first full-length ethnographic study of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East region, research for this project was conducted at various periods throughout 2015-2018 at civil society organizations, among physicians, and among people living with HIV. This dissertation employs the research techniques of semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and media analysis. It argues, overall, that the subjectivities of those living with, treating, and advocating for HIV/AIDS cannot be understood without recourse to stigma, and that the lives of people living with HIV are indelibly shaped by the care offered by their physicians and civil society activists in a variety of ways. Indeed, the culture of HIV/AIDS in Lebanon, its very meaning, is constructed via an interplay of the agential lives of those living with the illness, the care offered by those treating it clinically and in civil society, and the ongoing battle against stigma fought by all of these individuals. The dissertation first offers theoretical and ethnographic background on the research, followed by three chapters, one centering people living with HIV, one focusing on infectious diseases physicians, and one on civil society activists. Within these chapters, the analytical devices of “stigmatized sexualities” and “precarious chronicity” are explored. The dissertation concludes with policy and continuing research recommendations.

This document is currently not available here.