A triumph of facts over experience: constructions of ignorance and disregard of the affective in relation to HIV prevention work in Myanmar / Burma
The data presented in this abstract were collected in Myanmar / Burma through 21 individual interviews with key senior level national informants from international organisations, junior field staff, volunteers and community members, and through observation of a community-based workshop. Results Constructions of community members as ‘blank sheets’, ignorant in terms of HIV knowledge prior to NGO intervention were widespread, eg: “We have to give them the knowledge”. This view was shared by many community members, although in interviews they revealed possession of basic HIV prevention information prior to involvement with an NGO.
Research participants also expressed varying degrees of awareness of the real-life complexities associated with trying to change sexual behaviour – but in most cases this awareness was spoken of as separate from, rather than intersecting with, the magic pill of factual knowledge. Several participants expressed the view that if people still become HIV+, despite having received the magic knowledge pill, they were doing so wilfully or because they were inherently promiscuous.
The data show that among research participants, decontextualised fact-giving is seen as an unquestioned ‘truth’ of behaviour change work; community members are constructed as ‘ignorant’ without NGO intervention; and the personal, societal and cultural complexities which can prevent behaviour change are negated. This bears heavy implications both for the efficacy of prevention work and for the (unintentional) increase in stigma borne by those who become HIV+.