Socio-economic status and women’s sexual health: framing the femininity, agency and vulnerability of young employed women in relation to HIV/AIDS.
Tshabalala, Nompumelelo Sibusisiwe.
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South Africa has one of the highest number of people living with HIV in the world. Despite all the interventions to combat HIV, HIV incidence continues to increase. Studies have shown that young Black African women lead in HIV incidence. Socioeconomic factors such as gender inequalities, poverty, economic inequalities, and intimate partner violence, have been identified as some of the key factors that lead to a high HIV incidence amongst young women. These factors are said to affect young women’s agency to negotiate sexual safety in their relationships. To manage vulnerability to HIV amongst women, some studies have proposed that ensuring financial independence amongst young women might enable them to exercise their agency in their relationships. This study aimed to explore how young working women managed their HIV risk in their sexual relationships. It employed a qualitative interpretive research design using individual interviews with four tertiary level qualified working women between the ages of 25 and 35 years in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings highlight the significance of higher levels of education for young working women’s agency. This potentially contributes to the development of HIV strategies which aim to decrease HIV incidence amongst young women.