Pathologies of Care: HIV Treatment and Prevention in Turkey

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Pathologies of Care: HIV Treatment and Prevention in Turkey

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This dissertation investigates the ambivalent, elusive, and contradictory nature of care that produces abandonment and harm but dialectically gives rise to vital modes of belonging and carefulness. In Turkey, the number of HIV diagnoses has increased by 620%, and AIDS- related deaths have more than doubled over the last decade. Yet, formal regimes of HIV care block access to testing, condoms, and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis; impose monogamy as a scientifically legitimate prevention method; deny (health)care to LGBTQI+s and people living with HIV; and refuse sexual health education. This dissertation draws on twenty months of embedded ethnography, public and private archives, medical records, newspaper articles, official government reports, and fifty in-depth interviews with governmental, nongovernmental, medical, and pharmaceutical sector workers. Through the concept of pathogenic care, this investigation uncovers how conservative and neoliberal ethics and mechanisms of public health aggravate the conditions of those living with HIV and increase the risk of transmission for others, especially the marginalized, who are socio- immunologically more vulnerable. In other words, this research demonstrates that HIV care has become pathological in Turkey by facilitating a joint epidemic of HIV and HIVfobi, i.e., status-based stigma and discrimination. By setting a sterile distance between themselves and the so-called “contagious others,” formal regimes of HIV care create zones of abandonment where particularly queer and trans communities are left vulnerable to HIV transmission and socio-medical discrimination. This study makes three central arguments with important theoretical and public health implications: (1) the Turkish HIV epidemic is not an inevitable result of dissident/terrorist sexualities, foreign lifestyles, or human immunodeficiency virus; (2) public health mechanisms, institutions, and actors in place to provide HIV treatment and prevention have become unexpected vectors of HIV transmission under neoliberal Islam; (3) the fear of medical and social contagion and the consequent impulse to immunize life against “risky” others lie at the center of Turkey’s failed public health response to the growing HIV epidemic.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2023. Major: Feminist Studies. Advisors: Susan Craddock, Karen-Sue Taussig. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 200 pages.

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Atuk, Tankut. (2023). Pathologies of Care: HIV Treatment and Prevention in Turkey. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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