The social construction of gender and sexuality in response to HIV/AIDS: the case of Tanzanian professional couples.

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The social construction of gender and sexuality in response to HIV/AIDS: the case of Tanzanian professional couples.

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Many studies in Tanzania have examined the role of gender in the spread of HIV/AIDS. These studies have also examined the ways in which poverty increases vulnerability to the disease. Generally, normative gender relations and poverty are among the main factors precipitating the spread of HIV/AIDS. Scholars have also looked at the impact of HIV/AIDS on the economy and the livelihood of the Tanzanian people. My research project examines the impact of HIV/AIDS on gender relations and sexuality. Earlier studies looked at how gender affects the spread of AIDS and my project looks at the reverse--how the spread of AIDS affects gender relations. I examine the gender dynamics in interactions among young adults. In particular, I analyze the cultural constructions of masculinity and femininity in couple relationships and the subjective experiences among young Tanzanian professionals from two different generations, in the context of past and recent processes of socio-cultural change and the influence of HIV/AIDS. My research participants were currently living in Dar es Salaam. I selected young adult professionals because, as a group, they embody the processes of social transformation, as they are creations of postcolonial Tanzania. The main sociological question I address is: How has the HIV/AIDS pandemic changed gender relations and sexuality among young Tanzanian professional couples? In order to answer this question I used data from in-depth life history interviews to compare the two generations, triangulated by data gathered via semi-structured questionnaires, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation. My findings reveal that HIV/AIDS is occasioning changes in the cultural constructs of femininity and masculinity. These changes, however, do not encourage condom use in serious intimate relationships such as marriage. Rather, young professional couples are constructing safer sex through what I call "mindful marital lifestyles" that promote healthy gender relations, healthy sexual conduct, and fidelity. This state of affairs is in direct opposition to public health discourses concerning safe sex. This study describes processes of change in gender and sexuality in response to HIV/AIDS epidemic as part of individual initiatives to prevention, and hence contributes to HIV prevention research.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2009. Major: Sociology. Advisor: Ronald Aminzade. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 336 pages, appendices. Ill. map some col.)

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Mlangwa, Susan. (2009). The social construction of gender and sexuality in response to HIV/AIDS: the case of Tanzanian professional couples.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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