“ we thought our company is safe”: Southern African lesbians’ experiences of coping with HIV

“ we thought our company is safe”: Southern African lesbians’ experiences of coping with HIV

Zethu Matebeni

1 Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA), University of Cape Town, Southern Africa

Vasu Reddy

2 Individual and Social Developing Research Programme, Human Sciences Analysis Council, Pretoria, Southern Africa

Theo Sandfort

3 HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, ny State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, ny, United States Of America

Ian Southey-Swartz

4 Open community Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Johannesburg, Southern Africa


HIV service and prevention programmes have traditionally either ignored or ignored lesbians. The experiences of lesbians with HIV have actually similarly been unrecognised and unreported. This erasure has added to your invisibility of lesbians in terms of HIV and associated health problems. This community participatory research, predicated on in-depth interviews with twenty-four self-identifying African lesbians living with HIV in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia, centers on their individual experiences and circumstances. Ladies’ experiences shed light and challenge notions that are popular lesbian risk. In specific among this team are lesbians whom self-report exclusive intimate relationships with females. Of these ladies, experiences of coping with HIV are challenging while they find it difficult to comprehend the risk of female-to-female transmission. While struggling with their very own perceptions of invulnerability and accepting their HIV status that is positive they need to deal additionally with wide-ranging misconceptions about danger. The paper contends that inside the context of HIV lesbians may not be considered a `no-risk’ team. Wellness solutions and wellness providers ought to answer the wellness needs of lesbians coping with HIV.


The wide and existing misconception that same-sex practising females and lesbians 1 face no significant HIV-related wellness threats implies a not enough painful and sensitive research approaches in to the research of HIV risks linked with intercourse between females (Johnson 2007; Reddy, Sandfort and Rispel 2009). Ladies in same-sex relationships and lesbians stay hidden in HIV research, in prevention programmes along with to medical care providers. Urban myths and misconceptions about lesbian and same-sex women that are practising resistance have actually turned out to be thought by healthcare providers in addition to by lesbians on their own (Wells and Polders 2005). As an example, Richardson (2000) contends that as a result of exclusion from HIV prevention communications, numerous lesbians think they’ll not get HIV and so are ignorant or reject safer sex techniques (Reddy, Sandfort and Rispel 2009).

Anecdotal proof through the Southern region that is african in conjunction with incidental information manufactured by away, a Pretoria-based LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organization, demonstrates that women that participate in same-sex methods and lesbians are contaminated and afflicted with HIV and AIDS. They report that 8% of same-sex practising women who had been alert to their HIV status had disclosed as HIV good. sexcamlyi The high prices of HIV amongst lesbians and bisexual females had been related to alarming degrees of rape and intimate physical violence among females and lesbians, especially in Southern Africa, also unsafe transactional intercourse with males generally speaking (Polders and Wells 2004).

Until recently, there is scant research on same-sex sex and HIV and helps with Southern Africa (Reddy, Sandfort and Rispel 2009). There clearly was now a developing corpus that is critical MSM (males that have intercourse with males) and HIV in many high effect scholastic journals. But, there is a substantial not enough focus on the experiences of same-sex practising women or lesbians with regards to HIV when you look at the African continent as an entire. Such neglect of females’s experiences within research reflects a far more gender-bias that is widespread the region where ladies continue steadily to experience obstacles to care and help (Jarman, Walsh and De Lancy 2005). More particularly, lesbians are ignored in HIV research and prevention techniques due to the failure to determine and appreciate the social and behavioural complexity of lesbians’ everyday lives (Dolan and Davis 2003) or that ladies are not absolutely all the same epidemiologically (Mora and Monteiro 2010).

Lesbian intimate behavior and HIV

The presumption of a detailed relationship between intimate behavior and intimate identification can certainly be viewed as having contributed to lesbian neglect (Formby 2011; energy, McNair and Carr 2009; Richardson 2000). Lesbians are regarded as not to ever be in danger for HIV since it is thought which they take part in sex just with other ladies. This presumption overlooks an individual’s intimate history together with reality that sexual identification is certainly not indicative of nor does it straight convert to intimate behavior. Hence maybe maybe not self-evident that a lesbian’s intimate history excludes intercourse with males or many other intimate methods (Roberts et al. 2000). |Khaxas (2008) argues that some cultural practices in Southern Africa render women’s bodies vulnerable and therefore play a role in the spread HIV and AIDS. Lesbians aren’t resistant to these conditions.

As past studies have shown, social stigma, stereotypes and prejudice subscribe to making lesbians coping with HIV invisible (Wells and Polders 2005). The concomitant impact is that the experiences of lesbians with HIV autumn from the radar associated with the wider HIV positive community (Arend 2003). We keep that to concentrate on the experiences of lesbians managing HIV may help out with changing basic understandings of HIV transmission and challenge assumptions about consequently lesbian danger.


The analysis used community participatory approach. Through the beginning, the research ended up being committed to the transfer of abilities and capability building of regional LGBT organisations when you look at the areas where research ended up being carried out. Such a method seeks make it possible for communities to be involved in the analysis of the very own truth and also to market transformation that is social the advantage of the individuals. Key to your understanding is individuals participation in decision-making procedures, creating, execution, sharing of advantages, monitoring and evaluation of jobs (Kumar 2000). The method additionally requires elements such as for instance information providing, assessment, involvement for product incentives and self-mobilisation. Core to such a method may be the part of community ability as well as its relationship to avoidance practice and results.

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