Between individual agency and structure in HIV prevention: Understanding the middle ground of social practice Academic Article uri icon


  • When HIV prevention targets risk and vulnerability, it focuses on individual agency and social structures, ignoring the centrality of community in effective HIV prevention. The neoliberal concept of risk assumes individuals are rational agents who act on information provided to them regarding HIV transmission. This individualistic framework does not recognize the communities in which people act and connect. The concept of vulnerability on the other hand acknowledges the social world, but mainly as social barriers that make it difficult for individuals to act. Neither approach to HIV prevention offers understanding of community practices or collective agency, both central to success in HIV prevention to date. Drawing on examples of the social transformation achieved by community action in Australia and Brazil, this article focuses on this middle ground and its role in effective HIV prevention.

publication date

  • 2013