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Keywords:

  • chronic illness;
  • gay men;
  • HIV;
  • social networks;
  • social support

Abstract

The present pilot study explored the experiences of social support on the part of a number of HIV-positive gay men. It drew upon the growing body of literature that highlights links between social support, and the health and well-being of people with chronic illnesses. In particular, it drew upon the way in which social network analysis can be used to illustrate patterns of both emotional support and instrumental support. The study informants were 30 HIV-positive gay men who were recruited through community support organisations which they accessed at the time of the study. The findings highlighted patterns of support among members of this marginalised community. At a time when access to treatment is extending the life expectancy of people infected with HIV and when, in the UK at least, there are major changes in the funding of HIV services, this paper raises pertinent questions about the impact of social support on people suffering from this illness and about the development of appropriate services.