Sexual decision-making and AIDS in Africa: A look at the social vulnerability of women in Sub-Saharian Africa to HIV/AIDS

A Kenyan Example

Mathai, Muthoni A.

kassel university press, ISBN: 978-3-89958-226-0, 2006, 349 Pages

URN: urn:nbn:de:0002-2269

Zugl.: Kassel, Univ., Diss. 2006

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Content: This book looks at the social vulnerability of women in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa to HIV/AIDS. Based on extensive field research conducted in Kenya between 2001 and 2002, with a follow-up in 2004, the study analyses and discusses different social, cultural and economic factors in the daily lives of women that are related to sexual behaviour within the context of the AIDS epidemics. The main topics include the women’s experiences with AIDS, interpretation and meaning-giving, the social discourse on AIDS, the intergeneration transfer of sexual knowledge and norms and sexual- behaviour and networking within the study community.

Female sexuality and sexual behaviour form the core of the study, and different aspects of sexual behaviour have been extensively addressed. The definition of femininity is anchored in a sexuality characterised by passivity. This is partly based on perceived Christian values, and partly a cultural legacy of the control of female sexuality related to the now dying practice of female genital cutting.

The social organisation of care in the study community is of particular importance. Care and care-work have often been related to HIV/AIDS with reference to the effects of the epidemic, as the burden of care that has fallen on women, rather than as a causative or vulnerability factor. The author, however, argues that, with women as the sole care-givers, the dependency of men on women increases women’s vulnerability to HIV in the community. Based on the social theory of care, the practice of caregiving and the closely related capacity to put oneself in the position of the other are prerequisites in the development of an attitude of self-care and the promotion of a sense of reflection about one’s own worth. Hence, the lack of male participation in care-giving is related to, or rather has resulted in a deficit in the development of an attitude of self-care in men characterised here by irresponsible sexual behaviour, to their detriment and to that of the women who care for them.

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