Asha Persson

Health Narratives



Asha Persson


University of New South Wales


Asha graduated with a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Sydney in 2001. Her doctoral thesis explored the poetic phenomenology and cultural adaptations of eastern spiritual practices in a western context, based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork. She has worked at the Centre for Social Research in Health since 2001, where she conducts qualitative research on the cultural politics and lived experiences of HIV. She has led ground-breaking projects with previously hidden and unresearched populations in the Australian HIV epidemic, including heterosexuals with HIV, children growing up with HIV, and couples with mixed HIV status.


Asha’s work examines how the cultural interplay of illness, medicine, gender, sexuality and society shapes the ways in which HIV is perceived, lived and embodied among diverse groups. Focusing on the stories of and about affected populations, she is interested in how “realities” of living with HIV are brought into being and enacted within a wide and shifting discursive field of scientific discourses, clinical discussions, popular/media representations, health promotion messages and peer narratives around HIV, and how these are enlisted, contested and reworked among affected populations as they negotiate the meanings and practices of life with HIV.


HIV, qualitative research, gender and sexuality, lived experiences, cultural politics

Key publications

Persson, A. (2013) Notes on the concepts of ‘serodiscordance’ and ‘risk’ in couples with mixed HIV status. Global Public Health, 8(2), 209-220.

Persson, A. (2013) Non/infectious corporealities: Tensions in the biomedical era of ‘HIV normalisation’. Sociology of Health & Illness, 35(7), 1065-1079.

Persson, A. (2012) The undoing and doing of sexual identity among HIV-positive heterosexual men in Australia. Men and Masculinities, 15(3), 311-328

Persson, A. and Newman, C. (2012) When HIV-positive children grow up: A critical analysis of the transition literature in developed countries. Qualitative Health Research, 22(5), 656-667.

Persson, A., Ellard, J., Newman, C., Holt, M., and De Wit, J. (2011) Human rights and universal access for men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs: A qualitative analysis of 2010 UNGASS narrative country progress reports. Social Science & Medicine, 73(3), 467-474.

Newman, C. & Persson, A. (2009) Fear, complacency and the spectacle of risk: The making of HIV as a public concern in Australia. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 13(1), 7-23.

Persson, A. & Newman, C. (2008) Making monsters: Heterosexuality, crime and race in recent western media coverage of HIV. Sociology of Health and Illness, 30(4), 632-646.