The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in Northern Nigeria

The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in Northern Nigeria

The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in Northern Nigeria

The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in Northern Nigeria

Synopsis

What do HIV-positive women in Nigeria face as they seek meaningful lives with a deeply discrediting disease? Kathryn A. Rhine uncovers the skillful ways women defuse concerns about their wellbeing and the ability to maintain their households. Rhine shows how this ethic of concealment involves masking their diagnosis, unfaithful husbands, and unsupportive families while displaying their beauty, generosity, and vitality. As Rhine observes, collusion with counselors and support group leaders to deflect stigma, secure respectability, and find love features prominently in the lives of ordinary women who hope for a brighter future as the HIV epidemic continues to expand.

Excerpt

Hope is in the tender hands that hold you.
Hope is in the embrace of the loving.
Hope is in the flesh touching flesh
to remind us of our human selves.
Hope is in the gentle nod of recognition,
hope is in the limping body still pushing
against the pain, the discomfort, still
laughing from so deep down it feels
like the rush of alcohol in the head
the full abandonment of all fear.
Hope is in the freedom to say
I long to be touched by a lover,
I long to feel the rush of desire
satisfied; hope is to embrace hunger
and find comfort in the sharing of needs.
Hope is in the hands we grasp,
the prayers we whisper,
the Amen, the Amen, the Amen.

Kwame Dawes, Faith

In the spring of 2003, I met with a young, widowed woman named Mary in an hiv clinic in the middle-belt city of Jos, Nigeria. It was a difficult interview, filled with many tearful pauses as she recounted her relationship history. Apart from the physicians and counselors in the hospital, I was . . .

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