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Faculty & Staff Honors

Northwestern: Author Examines Process of “Dying From” to “Living with” HIV/AIDS

“If it weren’t for HIV, I’d probably be dead.” This is the first line in a new book by Northwestern University sociologist Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes, “Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality” (University of California Press, August 2019), in which she draws upon the personal stories of more than 100 women living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in Chicago, as well as female AIDS activists and advocates from across the nation.

“Talking with women living with HIV/AIDS for more than a decade, I heard many stories about trauma and struggle, perhaps not surprising given the devastation wrought by the epidemic and the dynamics that fuel it,” said Dr. Watkins-Hayes, professor of sociology and African American studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern.

“But I also heard stories of transformation. Women in my research talked about following a trajectory that began with ‘dying from’HIV/AIDS and took them to ‘living with’ and even ‘thriving despite’ HIV. I became deeply curious as more and more women’s stories followed this pattern.”

Many of the women she chronicles were dealing with obstacles before their diagnoses — poverty, drug addiction, homelessness, sex work and a lack of social services, all of which make the transmission of HIV more likely.

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