Disability in Neoliberal Times: HIV Positive Immigrants’ Experiences of the Ontario Disability Support Program

Angel Serrano


In a neoliberal economy, the state’s new role implies a significant reduction of social services and changes to welfare programs. In this work, the experiences of HIV-positive Spanish speaking immigrants as recipients of the Ontario Disability Support Program are analyzed. Data used for this article are drawn from a larger study conducted by the author on migratory experiences, access to social services, and sexual behaviors of a sample of 30 Spanish speaking immigrants living with HIV in Toronto. Face to face in-depth interviews were conducted and analyzed qualitatively following an interpretive phenomenological approach. The results show that participants’ experiences are charged with contradictions: on the one hand, the ‘perverse incentives’ of the disability benefit system preclude their formal reincorporation to work. On the other, a limited income support constrains their everyday lives. These contradictions are framed in participants’ intersecting dimensions of identity, as HIV-positive immigrants living on disability support. It is possible to conclude that individuals’ experiences signal the success of neoliberal strategies to discipline the poor, deployed by a state whose new role under a neoliberal administration proclaims the importance of individual responsibility as a counterbalance to poverty and unemployment.


Disability, neoliberalism, HIV, immigrants, Disability Support Program

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ISSN: 2454-6623