Falling into poverty: the intersectionality of meanings of HIV among overseas Filipino workers and their families

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Many years of labour migration have opened opportunities as well as exposed overseas Filipino workers to health vulnerabilities. In the light of the increasing number of HIV cases in the country, these workers may be conceived as an at-risk group in need of careful attention. This study, which focuses on the experiences of HIV-positive overseas Filipino workers, describes the meanings HIV carries, together with implications for workers’ identities as they return home to their families. Recognising that HIV may affect different groups in different ways, we analysed 13 accounts from heterosexual men and women and gay men from the lens of intersectionality. We found three major storylines, namely: the ‘fallen hero’ and the struggle of losing the body for heterosexual men; ‘children in poverty’ and the struggle of losing the mind for heterosexual women; and the ‘crushed dream’ and the struggle of losing dignity for gay men. Surviving with HIV and poverty in the context of continuing heteronormative familial duties suggests the need for family-centered interventions for HIV-positive overseas Filipino workers.