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

Vicki Hutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


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 well-being. 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. (c) ISAZ 2015.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199 - 214
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • companion animals
  • Robert Weiss
  • Theory of Social Provisions

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