The [in]visibility of HIV/AIDS in the Malawi public sphere1

  • John Lwanda 4 Gailes Park, Bothwell, Glasgow G71 8TS, Scotland


This 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.

Keywords: culture, orality, sexuality

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

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445