Embodied Work: Insider Perspectives on the work of HIV/AIDS peer counselors
Our aim in this study was to explore HIV/AIDS peer counseling from the perspective of women actively engaged in this work within the context of a community-based program in rural areas of the southeastern United States. Based on this research we suggest that the embodied work of HIV/AIDS peer counselors is constructed around their personal identities and experiences. This work involves gaining entry to other HIV-positive women’s lives, building relationships, drawing on personal experiences, facing issues of fear and stigma, tailoring peer counseling for diversity, balancing risks and benefits, and terminating relationships. Peer counselors recognize the personal and collective value of their work, which, like much of women’s work within the context of family and community, lacks public visibility and acknowledgment. We discuss implications for the training and support of peer-based interventions for HIV and other women’s health issues across diverse contexts and settings.