Victim, agent or lover? Clarifying the meaning of transactional sex for HIV prevention in sub-Saharan Africa

victim agent lover.pdf

This presentation seeks to clarify the meaning of transactional sex for HIV prevention.

Rates of HIV among young women (15-24) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are disproportionately high. Young women have HIV rates two times that of young men and account for 31% of new infections in SSA. ‘Transactional sex’ (TS) is seen as an important infection risk – but what does the term mean? There is ongoing confusion and disagreement about the definition and determinants of TS.

This collaborative presentation by two STRIVE partners – the International Center of Research for Women (ICRW-DC) and National Institute of Mwanza Research (NIMR) – provides an overview of STRIVE research to:

  • review existing understandings and conceptualisations of TS in SSA especially among young women
  • recommend a definition of TS going forward
  • inform research and programmes addressing TS
  • guide the STRIVE working group on TS in conducting a systematic review on the extent to which TS drives HIV transmission or acquisition, and designing a ‘measurement brief’

To conceptualise TS, the researchers reduced 11 themes to three major ‘paradigms’:

  • Vulnerable victim: TS for survival in the context of poverty
  • Upwardly mobile sexual agent: TS for consumption in the context of globalisation
  • Lover: TS as a demonstration of love in the context of norms of masculinity, femininity and romance

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