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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

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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  • Hunter, Mark, 2007. "The changing political economy of sex in South Africa: The significance of unemployment and inequalities to the scale of the AIDS pandemic," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 689-700, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:64:y:2007:i:3:p:689-700
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    4. Carol S Camlin & Victoria Hosegood & Marie-Louise Newell & Nuala McGrath & Till Bärnighausen & Rachel C Snow, 2010. "Gender, Migration and HIV in Rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 5(7), pages 1-10, July.
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    9. Dieter von Fintel & Eldridge Moses, 2017. "Migration and gender in South Africa: following bright lights and the fortunes of others?," Working Papers 09/2017, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics, revised 2018.
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    12. 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;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 30(5), pages 729-750, October.
    13. Nkosiyazi Dube & Thobeka S. Nkomo & Priscalia Khosa, 2017. "Condom Usage Negotiation Among Customarily Married Women in Katlehong, Johannesburg," SAGE Open, , vol. 7(1), pages 21582440166, January.
    14. Busisiwe Nkonki-Mandleni & Abiodun Olusola Omotayo & David Ikponmwosa Ighodaro & Samuel Babatunde Agbola, 2021. "Analysis of the Living Conditions at eZakheleni Informal Settlement of Durban: Implications for Community Revitalization in South Africa," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(4), pages 1-16, February.
    15. Stoebenau, Kirsten & Heise, Lori & Wamoyi, Joyce & Bobrova, Natalia, 2016. "Revisiting the understanding of “transactional sex” in sub-Saharan Africa: A review and synthesis of the literature," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 186-197.
    16. Alipio, Mark, 2020. "Determinants of tuberculosis incidence in East Asia and Pacific: A panel regression analysis," EconStor Preprints 215784, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    17. Rohini Somanathan, 2016. "Group Inequality in Democracies: Lessons from Cross-national Experiences," Working papers 260, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
    18. Willan, Samantha & Gibbs, Andrew & Shai, Nwabisa & Ntini, Nolwazi & Petersen, Inge & Jewkes, Rachel, 2020. "Did young women in South African informal settlements display increased agency after participating in the Stepping Stones and Creating Futures intervention? A qualitative evaluation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 265(C).
    19. Sangeetha Madhavan & Donatien Beguy & Shelley Clark, 2018. "Measuring extended families over time in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya: Retention and data consistency in a two-round survey," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 38(44), pages 1339-1358.
    20. Alipio, Mark, 2020. "Determinants of tuberculosis incidence in East Asia and Pacific: A panel regression analysis," MPRA Paper 99647, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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