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The [in]visibility of HIV/AIDS in the Malawi public sphere<sup>1</sup>

John Lwanda


paper argues that, far from being invisible, issues of sexuality are
omnipresent in the African public sphere. However, this presence is not usually
found in the medical nor overtly gender/sexual arenas but in general social
contexts. Western derived research models have sought and continue to seek to
situate gender and sexual discourse in overt forms, especially when emphasising
public health aspects. Using qualitative and quantitative evidence from my PhD
research of popular discourse in Malawi, and using some evidence from Zambia,
Zimbabwe and South Africa, I argue that the perceived secrecy is allied to
cultural, male/female and intra-female power relations. I found that
significant issues of sexual and medical concerns were ‘hidden' in the easy to
decode public social sphere. Using a historical model of the colonial and
postcolonial construction of this dominant social public sphere in Malawi I was
able to demonstrate that key messages relating to sexuality and sexual
behaviour can be easily found in social discourse, from where they can be
exploited for health promotion purposes.

orality, sexuality

African Journal of AIDS Research 2003, 2(2): 113–126

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eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445