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Social provisions of the human-animal relationship amongst 30 people living with HIV in Australia

By V. E. Hutton

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Research on the relationship between humans and animals has identified some links between companion animals and physiological, psychological, and social benefits for the human. Adopting Robert Weiss's (1974) Theory of Social Provisions as a framework, this qualitative study explores the role of the human-animal relationship amongst 30 people living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Australia. Despite the transition of HIV from a terminal to chronic condition in many developed nations, there can still be personal and social challenges accompanying an HIV-diagnosis. Thematic analysis of the 30 interviews identified themes of Attachment, Opportunity for Nurturance, Reassurance of Worth, Reliable Alliance, Obtaining of Guidance/Emotional Support, and Social Integration. Extracts coded to these themes indicated that many participants believed their companion animal motivated them to remain socially and physically active; provided an outlet for love and attachment; remained non-judgmental irrespective of the human's physical or social status; and was capable of providing both day-to-day comfort through their reliable presence, and episode-specific supportive responses during periods of heightened stress. It was proposed that for people living with a chronic and/or stigmatized condition like HIV, these aspects of the human-animal relationship may play an important part in their overall wellbeing. In conclusion, this study contributes to a greater understanding of the lived experience of HIV and provides a conceptually sound mechanism for validating the love and support that some HIV-positive people perceive in their relationship with a companion animal. This knowledge draws attention to the need to normalize, validate, and support the human-animal relationship throughout the animal's life, and death.

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 28
Issue 2
Pages 199-214
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.2752/089279315x14219211661651
Language English
Author Address School of Social Sciences, Monash University, P.O. Box 197, Caulfield East, Victoria 3145,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Analysis
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animals
  4. Anthrozoology
  5. APEC countries
  6. Attitudes
  7. Australasia
  8. Australia
  9. Commonwealth
  10. Deficiency
  11. Developed countries
  12. Emotions
  13. Human behavior
  14. Human immunodeficiency viruses
  15. Humans
  16. Immunology
  17. Infections
  18. interviews
  19. Mammals
  20. Men
  21. Nations
  22. Oceania
  23. OECD countries
  24. peer-reviewed
  25. Pets and companion animals
  26. Primates
  27. Relationships
  28. sociology
  29. vertebrates
  30. Virus diseases
  1. peer-reviewed