Examining the Interface between HIV/AIDS, Religion and Gender in Sub-Saharan Africa

Pugh, Sarah A.
December 2010
Canadian Journal of African Studies;2010, Vol. 44 Issue 3, p624
Academic Journal
While issues of gender are critical to an understanding of the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, little attention has been paid to the interface between gender and religion in the context of the pandemic. Most explorations deal with gender and HIV/AIDS, gender and religion, or HIV/AIDS and religion, but seldom the interplay between the three. Given the increasing stronghold and growth of religion (in particular Islam and renewalist Christian faiths) in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the potential impact of religion in either curtailing or advancing the spread of HIV/AIDS needs closer attention. While recognizing the positive roles that faith communities can and do play in terms of HIV/AIDS education, prevention, treatment, care and support, this article focuses primarily on how certain religious teachings and practice within sub-Saharan Africa may also inadvertently contribute to both the general spread of HIV/AIDS and the differential vulnerability of women and girls, boys and men to the virus. Specifically, this article examines the ways in which some faith-based teachings may reinforce gendered stereotypes and female subordination to male sexual demands, impact condom accessibility and usage, circumscribe the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS education programs, and contribute to a climate of stigma and discrimination, especially against women living with HIV/AIDS in the region.


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