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South African Women Living with HIV

Global Lessons from Local Voices

Anna Aulette-Root, Floretta Boonzaier, and Judy Aulette

Publication Year: 2013

Based on interviews with women who are HIV positive, this sobering pandemic brings to light the deeply rooted and complex problems of living with HIV. Already pushed to the edges of society by poverty, racial politics, and gender injustice, women with HIV in South Africa have found ways to cope with work and men, disclosure of their HIV status, and care for families and children to create a sense of normalcy in their lives. As women take control of their treatment, they help to determine effective routes to ending the spread of the disease.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-x

When I teach qualitative feminist research methodology to students at the University of Cape Town, I like to emphasize the idea of treating those who participate in research as co-researchers rather than as subjects. In class there is always discussion around the problem of researchers taking credit for studies made possible by anonymous research participants, essentially co-researchers, who because of research...

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1. Women Living with HIV

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pp. 1-10

This book is about women living on the margins. Already pushed to the edges by systems of inequality and oppression through global politics, social class, racism, and gender injustice, they are forced even further from the center by their HIV -positive status. This book is also about women who have devised strategies to bring themselves back to “normal” and to challenge what is considered normal. The...

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2. The Cape Coloured Community

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pp. 11-25

This book is about women who face stigma, discrimination, poverty, and violence. It is about women who do care work for children and men, and whose responsibilities sometimes force them to make choices between their own needs and those for whom they are caring. And it is about women who must contend with all of these challenges at the same time they fear for the deterioration of their own...

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3. A Support Group for HIV-Positive Women in Cape Town

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pp. 26-42

The first cases of HIV were identified in South Africa in the early 1980s. The numbers affected by the epidemic grew fairly slowly in the 1980s and early 1990s but exploded in the late 1990s and the first decade of the twenty-first century. At first the government was unprepared to deal with the problem. Then in 1998, AZT (azidothymidine), an antiretroviral drug especially useful for inhibiting mother-to-child...

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4. Marginalizing the Marginalized through Multiple Stigmas

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pp. 43-57

Most scholars and activists now recognize stigma as one of the most important factors in the lives of people living with HIV (Mahajan et al., 2008). There is no escaping the stigma that is attached to HIV. Everyone who is living with HIV is stigmatized to some extent. The experiences of that stigma, however, fluctuate across many variables, including gender. Women and men are stigmatized...

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5. Disclosure for Better or Worse

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pp. 58-71

For those who are HIV positive, disclosure is an essential step. If nothing else, they must at least disclose their status to health-care providers in order to obtain care and medicine. Disclosure also contributes to a person’s ability to take care of themselves and to plan ahead for their care and treatment. However, disclosure is not easy. Telling others that one is HIV positive is always difficult and sometimes...

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6. Staking a Claim as Normal through Work and Relationships with Men

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pp. 72-85

Stigmatization appears to be a major barrier for women to overcome in order to disclose their HIV status. While stigmatization is a critical factor for everyone living with HIV , the force of stigmatization may be intensified in specific ways for women, since they must make their way through the multiple layers of challenges of particularly gendered forms of HIV stigmatization. Gendered HIV stigma may...

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7. Care Work

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pp. 86-98

The women we interviewed spoke frequently of work in general and about care work in particular. Many of the women in our study fear for their own day-to-day survival in terms of just finding enough food to eat and not suddenly dropping dead of HIV (several women expressed this as their greatest fear). Despite these real concerns about themselves, they also talked about taking care of their men...

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8. Care Work and Violent Men

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pp. 99-113

Chapter 7 described the problems with care work that women do, especially for their children, but problems also exist in the care work they do for the men in their lives. Ironically, the discussion of care work for men in our interviews with the women was mostly talk about men within a context of abuse. The women are caring for men partners, despite their own HIV-related problems and, even more...

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9. Women’s Bodies

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pp. 114-128

Clashes over what women’s bodies should do and what they should look like continue. Despite strides forward in women’s rights on many fronts, bodies remain a persistent battleground. Some feminists even argue that as the feminist movement has grown, we are moving backward on issues related to women’s bodies, asserting that a backlash has developed that seeks to reinforce ever more policing...

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10. Lessons for the World

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pp. 129-142

Five discourses emerged in our analysis of the interview transcripts: (1) being normal through work and men; (2) disclosure for better or worse; (3) taking care of children; (4) caring for violent men; and (5) women’s bodies. Sometimes these mirror the dominant discourse about HIV, sometimes they pose alternative discourses, and always they reveal the tensions and links between oppression...


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pp. 143-158

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pp. 159-160

Anna Aulette-Root is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, where she lectures in psychology. She holds a Master of Social Science degree in psychology from UCT and is a member of the Men, Masculinities & Violence research project in the department. Her current research interests are in the areas of critical feminism, qualitative methodology, intersectionality theory, femininities...


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pp. 161-166

E-ISBN-13: 9780253010704
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253010544

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2013