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From rhetoric to reality? Putting HIV and AIDS rights talk into practice in a South African rural community

Campbell, Catherine and Nair, Yugi (2014) From rhetoric to reality? Putting HIV and AIDS rights talk into practice in a South African rural community. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 16 (10). pp. 1216-1230. ISSN 1369-1058

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13691058.2014.930180


Whilst international rhetoric on HIV and AIDS frequently invokes discourses of human rights to inspire and guide action, translating universal rights talk into practice in specific settings remains a challenge. Community mobilisation is often strategy of choice. We present a case study of the Entabeni Project in South Africa - in which a foreign-funded NGO sought to work with female health volunteers in a deep rural community to increase their access to two HIV-relevant rights: women's rights (especially gender equality) and rights to health (especially access to HIV- and AIDS-related services). Whilst the project had short-term health-related successes, it was less successful in implementing a gender empowerment agenda. The concept of women's rights had no purchase with women who had little interest in directly challenging male power, foregrounding the fight against poverty as their main preoccupation. The area's traditional chief and gatekeeper insisted the project should remain 'apolitical'. Project funders prioritised 'numbers reached' over a gender empowerment orientation. In the absence of (1) a marginalised group who are willing to assert their rights; and (2) a context where powerful people are willing to support these claims, 'rights' may be a blunt tool for HIV-related work with women in deeply oppressive and remote rural communities beyond the reach of international treaties and urban-based activist movements.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: LSE Health
Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2014 11:24
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2021 00:56

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