Being a woman and HIV positive in Soweto : a challenge to the church.
Myeni, Ethel Zandile.
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The main aim of this study was to explore the extent of freedom or lack thereof in the relationships of HIV positive pregnant women and their partners. These women were attending antenatal care in two Soweto clinics, run by the Perinatal HIV Research Unit. A semi-structured interview schedule was developed and used as the data collection tool. A theoretical framework based on Amartya Sen's theory of Development as Freedom and Isabel Apawo Phiri's theological reflections on women's freedom, was used to analyze data collected from the participants of the study. The ideas of the two theorists complemented each other with regard to the sources of "unfreedom" for women from an economic point of view and from the cultural and religious points of view. Sen highlighted lack of basic freedoms and human rights as the core causes of lack of freedom, which is both a primary means and principal ends of development. Phiri advocated for the liberation of women from the oppressive cultural and religious practices brought about by patriarchy. Removal of all those key sources of unfreedom would provide an ideal situation in which women would be less vulnerable to HIV infection. The analysis of the participants' responses in this study suggested a lack of freedom in their relationships with the fathers of their unborn babies. This had an adverse effect in their ability to disclose their HIV positive status, negotiate safer sex and contraception. Economic dependency on the partners was found to be the major cornerstone that kept women in bondage in their relationships. The churches in Soweto did not seem to have any plausible impact in the lives of the participants and as a result all of them had very loose links with the church. This was another major gap in the initiatives to reduce HIV infection which challenges the churches in Soweto to strengthen their prophetic ministry in terms of women's freedom and their dignity both in the church and in society.