“Urges leaders to deliver bold policy solutions to address the complicated intersection of healthcare, social support, economic assistance, and civic engagement. Offers a solutions-driven model that untangles how the public sector can help individuals and communities in crisis, and carves a path forward to progress.” Stacey Abrams, Founder and Chair of Fair Fight Action, Former Georgia House Minority Leader

In the face of life-threatening news, how do we reevaluate and transform our lives? Starting in 2005, Northwestern professor of Sociology and African American Studies Celeste Watkins-Hayes spent more than a decade documenting the experiences of over 100 women living with HIV/AIDS in Chicago and beyond.

Remaking a Life uses the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a lens to understand how women achieve radical improvements in their social wellbeing in the face of social stigma and economic disadvantage. Drawing on interviews with nationally recognized AIDS activists and policy experts as well as women living with HIV/AIDS, Watkins-Hayes takes readers on an uplifting journey chronicling women’s movements from “dying from” to “thriving despite” HIV/AIDS as they fight for their physical, emotional, economic, and political survival. With an eye towards improving the lives of women, Remaking a Life provides strategies to encourage private, nonprofit, and government agencies to successfully collaborate, and shares policy ideas with the hope of alleviating the injuries of inequality faced by those living with HIV/AIDS every day.

Remaking a Life speaks to the profound success of the HIV/AIDS community over the past 30 years, and how it can serve as a roadmap for how we can combat today’s public health crises.  The book was published by the University of California Press.

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, PhD is professor of sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University and a faculty fellow in Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research.

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Celeste Watkins-Hayes examines ‘dying from’ to ‘living with’ HIV/AID

Early Praise for the Book

“Watkins-Hayes carefully weaves together life and policy histories to give voice to the struggles of women marginalized by society, honoring their transformative work and efforts to make meaning across the life course. Remaking a Life is a powerful read and one critical for so many researchers, students, policymakers, and advocates to engage.”

Scott Allard, Professor, University of Washington

“A brilliant book on political and personal transformation.”

Cathy J. Cohen, Author of The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics

“A must-read for scholars, activists, policy makers, and communities seeking to understand the continuing challenges of combatting HIV/AIDS.”

Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Founding Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College and Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies

“Important, thoughtful, and original.”

Mario Small, Grafstein Family Professor, Harvard University


The ‘Queer Eye’ star was fortunate to have a safety net. Too many people don’t.

By Celeste Watkins-Hayes on September 24, 2019

In a recent profile, Jonathan Van Ness of “Queer Eye” courageously shared his story as an “out-and-proud ‘member of the beautiful H.I.V.-positive community’” who has remade his life after experiencing childhood sexual abuse, drug addiction and shame.

As a sociologist who has spent more than a decade interviewing women who are living with H.I.V., I saw in Mr. Van Ness’s story the larger social and political urgencies of the epidemic.

Read the full article. 

Q&A with Celeste Watkins-Hayes author of Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality

By on

Starting in 2005, Northwestern professor Celeste Watkins-Hayes spent a decade documenting the lives of over 100 women living with HIV/AIDS in Chicago and beyond. She finds something unexpected—not despair, but a story of the profound power of personal and political transformation, all of which she chronicles in her important new book REMAKING A LIFE: HOW WOMEN LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS CONFRONT INEQUALITY.

Read the full interview.