Women’s vulnerability, sexual power and prevention of stigma : what do prevention campaigns tell us

Date: July 21, 2014
  • SHARE:

The HIV-epidemic that is evident in South Africa today is infecting more women than men. This is mostly due to the vulnerability that women are facing in sexual relationships, where they are not able to negotiate the terms and conditions of their sexual engagement. Patriarchy, the culture of masculinity and a general male dominance influence women’s dependency on their man and agency inside and outside of the home, and contribute to the oppression of women both generally in society and sexually. Women have by this not the control over their own bodies and are for this reason in a high-risk position of contracting HIV. The vulnerability is further linked to the stigmatisation that women experience if they do try to negotiate preventative measures to reduce the risk of transmission. The fear of being stigmatised as ‘loose’ or HIV-positive by both men and women if suggesting condom use, inhibits women to propose the necessary actions for protection. Stigmatising behaviours also impact on a person’s fear of becoming HIV-positive and reduces the likelihood of getting tested, disclose one’s status to sexual partners and receive treatment. This thesis examines cultural and socio-economic issues that contribute to gender inequality in South Africa, and can generate stigma towards women on the basis of HIV and AIDS. This is done by using radical feminism as the theoretical framework for contextualising how women are situated in the South African society, in terms of general and sexual agency. Through the method of content analysis and the findings from the theoretical framework, the thesis further analyses how the three HIVprevention campaigns loveLife, Brothers for Life and TAC manage to address the issues related to stigma based on HIV/AIDS, which are directed towards women. Race, class and gender are all factors that influence the likelihood of becoming HIV-infected and of becoming stigmatised. Women’s low social status situates women in a position where they are more probable to be the object of stigmatisation since they already are considered lower in rank. If the women also are of colour, poor and low educated the chances of becoming stigmatised on the basis of HIV and AIDS are even more likely, the same is the chances of becoming HIV-infected. This indicates that poor, uneducated black women are the group that is most vulnerable towards stigmatisation as well as towards HIV-transmission. Socio-economic and cultural factors have a strong influence on the gender inequality in sexual relationships found in South Africa, which cause HIV to spread and can generate stigmatising behaviours. Stigmatisation on the basis of HIV/AIDS is therefore important to address in order to reduce the number of new HIV-infections. The three campaigns analysed for this thesis did neither directly address stigma on a general level nor directed towards women. The campaigns are therefore considered to be missing an important feature of HIV-prevention in South Africa.

Publisher: Stellenbosch University
Year of Publication: 2014

Comment on Women’s vulnerability, sexual power and prevention of stigma : what do prevention campaigns tell us

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *