South African Women Living with HIV: Global Lessons from Local Voices

South African Women Living with HIV: Global Lessons from Local Voices

South African Women Living with HIV: Global Lessons from Local Voices

South African Women Living with HIV: Global Lessons from Local Voices


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.


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 women whose voices we hear in the text are living with hiv in Cape Town, South Africa, an area hard hit by the hiv pandemic. By listening to their stories we are made aware of new ways to think about hiv, and, most importantly, we learn lessons that are essential for understanding hiv and determining effective routes to its demise.

Hiv Is a Social Issue

At the February 2010 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego, research fellow Dr. Brian Williams, of the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis in Cape Town, announced that if we could aggressively distribute antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) to everyone who is hiv positive, we could stop the virus from spreading and eventually eliminate it from the globe. ARVs reduce the viral load, the amount of hiv detectable in blood, so dramatically that those who are hiv positive become nearly noninfectious (BBC, 2010). This is a bold and apparently valid idea, but it is a goal that cannot be met if we do not take into consideration the social and political character of the human community, perhaps especially the factor of gender injustice.

The women in this book identify the social issues that go hand in hand with Williams’s proposal. They tell us what also must be done in collaboration with the medical breakthroughs. From them we learn, once again, that humans are social and that the complex and contradictory web of relationships and social arrangements in which we live our lives is not easily infused with medical breakthroughs. If we are to eliminate hiv, we must pay attention to a vast array of concerns, including gender, intimate relationships, poverty, stigma, paid work, racism, care work, interpersonal violence, and body aesthetics.

Listening to marginalized women opens up a whole new (and large) box of issues to consider. Our next step must be to bring these margins to the center. We need to place real peoples’ experiences and ideas at the center of our thinking . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.