Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Andrew Dalton

Ageism, stigma and the issues faced by older people living with HIV when searching for (and meeting) sexual partners and intimate partnerships.

Photo of Andrew Dalton

This research will aim to address the impending challenges faced by an older generation of people now living with HIV in the United Kingdom. This sea change in increased life expectancy has been largely due to successful medical advances in antiretroviral therapies (ART) and the continued clinical treatment of the virus. However, key questions about the social world and its tolerance of HIV continue to drive the debate forward regarding HIV related stigma and exclusion of people who are living with HIV. As the majority of people in the UK living with HIV now live longer and now move into their ‘golden years’ for the first time in the history of the virus, we are ideally placed at this point in the known history of the HIV to ascertain the experiences and issues around the processes of seeking contact with sexual partners and intimate relationships with others.

This research will highlight the unique challenges faced by a diverse older community and what issues, feelings, obstacles and blockages (perceived or real) are faced when meeting others for sexual contact and intimate relationships. Furthermore, it will also explore the methods currently used by older people living with HIV who do seek out and meet sexual partners and longer term intimate relationships and what levels of success they have, including how they manoeuvre around the issues they face.

It is hoped that this research will cast light on older people living with HIV and what their needs are in a society where they are now living a lot longer. We are now living with an increasingly ageing (and later diagnoses) HIV population in the UK where there appears to be little in place, both in the public domain and in service provision, to tackle the potential problems raised by a lack of awareness of HIV and the issues around it.

Background

I completed my undergraduate in BSc (Hons) Sociology and Social Research and an MSc Social Research at Northumbria University. After entering industry, I then completed an MA in Gender Research at Newcastle University. I hold Qualified Teacher Status and I am an experienced teacher trainer. I have particular research interests in HIV/AIDS, sexual health, sex work, sub-cultural sexual practices and social exclusion.

I have previously worked within third sector management roles in a range of different charities, from being a Development Officer and Project Manager for a young people and children’s charity to a Volunteer Manager and Fundraiser for a community centre working within deprived communities in the North East of England. In parallel to this, I am a qualified secondary school teacher and former Head of Department as well as a former Sociology/Philosophy Lecturer for a large FE college.

In have a range of experiences as a volunteer in community development, education/research and activism for organisations such as Amnesty International and Outrage. I currently volunteer for Body Positive North East, where I deliver HIV/AIDS awareness education sessions for schools, colleges, charities and business organisations, as well as supporting male clients with their needs face to face. I am also undertaking a research project documenting the life histories of people living with HIV in the North East of England.

I currently work full time as a Lecturer of Social Studies and a Programme Leader of the BSc Social Sciences programme at the University of Sunderland.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

I am motivated to undertake this PhD study as I believe that the social sciences, and in particular sociology, has largely ignored HIV/AIDS as a topic of sociological investigation. This PhD is an attempt to bring HIV/AIDS back ‘onto the radar’ in order to facilitate discussion of the disease in a time when public discourse is largely ignoring it.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Due to the diagnosis of a close personal friend, I became passionate about highlighting the needs of others who are living with HIV/AIDS, both in the UK and globally.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I intend to use this PhD to not only further my own personal journey through academia, however to also use the findings of the study to engage with practitioners on the ground who work with people living with HIV/AIDS.

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