The Realities of 'Choice' in Africa: Implications for Sexuality, Vulnerability, and HIV/AIDS (pdf)

Published: February 8, 2010

The Realities of ‘Choice’ in Africa: Implications for Sexuality, Vulnerability, and HIV/AIDS

For the last couple of weeks, as I’ve thought about what I wanted to talk about today, I’ve been fixated on the term ‘choice’ and the ways in which this phenomenon plays out in many of our African contexts. The very word, for me, immediately invokes questions which a conference such as this one provides the space for us to consider. First question: What are the realities of ‘choice’ in African settings and how do these realities shape sexualities, vulnerability, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the continent?

I was browsing through the conference agenda and I noticed that a key slogan of this conference is the following empowering phrase: ‘My Sexuality, My Choice, My Right’ – and since the phrase is italicized, I read it with an emphasis on the word ‘my.’ Despite the liberating effect that these words undoubtedly have, in considering them, I was confronted by a series of questions: To what extent is choice an individualistic and linear phenomenon in African contexts? What do we gain by making the assumption that it is? What do we lose by addressing the possibility that it might not be?

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