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The changing political economy of sex in South Africa: The significance of unemployment and inequalities to the scale of the AIDS pandemic

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  • Hunter, Mark
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    Abstract

    Between 1990 and 2005, HIV prevalence rates in South Africa jumped from less than 1% to around 29%. Important scholarship has demonstrated how racialized structures entrenched by colonialism and apartheid set the scene for the rapid unfolding of the AIDS pandemic, like other causes of ill-health before it. Of particular relevance is the legacy of circular male-migration, an institution that for much of the 20th century helped to propel the transmission of sexually transmitted infections among black South Africans denied permanent urban residence. But while the deep-rooted antecedents of AIDS have been noted, less attention has been given to more recent changes in the political economy of sex, including those resulting from the post-apartheid government's adoption of broadly neo-liberal policies. As an unintentional consequence, male migration and apartheid can be seen as almost inevitably resulting in AIDS, a view that can disconnect the pandemic from contemporary social and economic debates. Combining ethnographic, historical, and demographic approaches, and focusing on sexuality in the late apartheid and early post-apartheid periods, this article outlines three interlinked dynamics critical to understanding the scale of the AIDS pandemic: (1) rising unemployment and social inequalities that leave some groups, especially poor women, extremely vulnerable; (2) greatly reduced marital rates and the subsequent increase of one person households; and (3) rising levels of women's migration, especially through circular movements between rural areas and informal settlements/urban areas. As a window into these changes, the article gives primary attention to the country's burgeoning informal settlements--spaces in which HIV rates are reported to be twice the national average--and to connections between poverty and money/sex exchanges.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 64 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 3 (February)
    Pages: 689-700

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:64:y:2007:i:3:p:689-700

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    Keywords: South Africa AIDS Health inequalities Sexuality Gender;

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    Cited by:
    1. Camlin, Carol S. & Kwena, Zachary A. & Dworkin, Shari L. & Cohen, Craig R. & Bukusi, Elizabeth A., 2014. "“She mixes her business”: HIV transmission and acquisition risks among female migrants in western Kenya," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 146-156.
    2. Michelle Poulin & Adamson S. Muula, 2011. "An inquiry into the uneven distribution of women’s HIV infection in rural Malawi," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 25(28), pages 869-902, December.
    3. Lori Hunter & John Reid-Hresko & Thomas Dickinson, 2011. "Environmental Change, Risky Sexual Behavior, and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: Linkages Through Livelihoods in Rural Haiti," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 30(5), pages 729-750, October.

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