Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa



Anti-retroviral therapies have radically transformed the HIV epidemic in rural southern Malawi and this article explores the ways in which women are learning to live with the virus in a matrilineal setting. Through discussion of the experiences of HIV-positive women, I argue that stigma can only be understood through an appreciation of the pre-existing, and often complicated, social relations into which new information about a person is folded. The women's narratives reveal a tentative hope for the future, which is replicated in my own optimism that the anthropology of HIV is undergoing a parallel reorientation towards the study of life with HIV, rather than death by AIDS.


Les thérapies antirétrovirales ont transformé l’épidémie de VIH de manière radicale dans la région rurale du sud du Malawi, et cet article examine la manière dont les femmes apprennent à vivre avec le virus dans un contexte matrilinéaire. En relatant les expériences de femmes séropositives, l'auteur affirme que la seule manière de comprendre la réprobation dont elles sont l'objet est d'apprécier les relations sociales préexistantes et souvent compliquées dans lesquelles s'intègrent les nouvelles informations concernant une personne. Ces récits de femmes révèlent un début d'espoir pour l'avenir que l'on retrouve dans l'optimisme que nourrit l'auteur de voir l'anthropologie du VIH marquer une réorientation parallèle vers l’étude du vivre avec le VIH, plutôt que du mourir du SIDA.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

F. Becker and P. W. Geissler (eds) (2009) AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa. Leiden: Brill.

N. Beckmann and J. Bujra (2010) ‘The “politics of the queue”: the politicization of people living with HIV/AIDS in Tanzania’, Development and Change 41 (6): 1041–64.

D. F. Bryceson and J. Fonseca (2006) ‘Risking death for survival: peasant responses to hunger and HIV/AIDS in Malawi’, World Development 34 (9): 1654–66.

A. Castro and P. Farmer (2005) ‘Understanding and addressing AIDS-related stigma: from anthropological theory to clinical practice in Haiti’, American Journal of Public Health 95 (1): 53–9.

J. Cole and L. M. Thomas (eds) (2009) Love in Africa. Chicago IL and London: University of Chicago Press.

J. Comaroff (2007) ‘Beyond bare life: AIDS, (bio)politics, and the neoliberal order’, Public Culture 19 (1): 197219.

H. Dilger (2003) ‘Sexuality, AIDS, and the lures of modernity: reflexivity and morality among young people in rural Tanzania’, Medical Anthropology 22 (1): 2352.

H. Dilger (2008) ‘“We are all going to die”: kinship, belonging, and the morality of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses and deaths in rural Tanzania’, Anthropological Quarterly 81 (1): 207–32.

M. Doran (2007) ‘Reconstructing mchape ’95: AIDS, Billy Chisupe, and the politics of persuasion’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 1 (3): 397416.

H. Englund (2008) ‘Extreme poverty and existential obligations: beyond morality in the anthropology of Africa?’, Social Analysis 52 (3): 3350.

C. R. Janes and K. K. Corbett (2009) ‘Anthropology and global health’, Annual Review of Anthropology 38: 167–83.

E. Jul-Larsen and P. Mvula (2009) ‘Security for many or surplus for the few? Customary tenure and social differentiation in southern Malawi’, Journal of Southern African Studies 35 (1): 175–90.

A. Kaler (2001) ‘“Many divorces and many spinsters”: marriage as an invented tradition in southern Malawi, 1946–1999’, Journal of Family History 26 (4): 529–56.

A. Kaler (2004a) ‘AIDS-talk in everyday life: the presence of HIV/AIDS in men's informal conversation in southern Malawi’, Social Science and Medicine 59 (2): 285–97.

A. Kaler (2004b) ‘The moral lens of population control: condoms and controversies in southern Malawi’, Studies in Family Planning 35 (2): 105–15.

I. A. Kalofonos (2010) ‘“All I eat is ARVs”: the paradox of AIDS treatment interventions in central Mozambique’, Medical Anthropology Quarterly 24 (3): 363–80.

V.-K. Nguyen (2010) The Republic of Therapy: triage and sovereignty in West Africa's time of AIDS. Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Z. Ngwani (2001) ‘“Real men reawaken their fathers’ homesteads, the educated leave them in ruins”: the politics of domestic reproduction in post-apartheid rural South Africa’, Journal of Religion in Africa 31 (4): 402–26.

I. Niehaus (2007) ‘Death before dying: understanding AIDS stigma in the South African Lowveld’, Journal of Southern African Studies 33 (4): 845–60.

I. Niehaus (2009) ‘Leprosy of a deadlier kind: Christian conceptions of AIDS in the South African Lowveld’ in F. Becker and P. W. Geissler (eds), AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa. Leiden: Brill.

R. Parker (2001) ‘Sexuality, culture, and power in HIV/AIDS research’, Annual Review of Anthropology 30: 163–79.

R. Parker and P. Aggleton (2003) ‘HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination: a conceptual framework and implications for action’, Social Science and Medicine 57 (1): 1324.

P. E. Peters (2002) ‘Bewitching land: the role of land disputes in converting kin to strangers and in class formation in Malawi’, Journal of Southern African Studies 28 (1): 155–78.

P. E. Peters , D. Kambewa and P. A. Walker (2010) ‘Contestations over “tradition” and “culture” in a time of AIDS’, Medical Anthropology 29 (3): 278302.

M. Poulin (2007) ‘Sex, money, and premarital partnerships in southern Malawi’, Social Science and Medicine 65 (11): 2383–93.

R. Prince (2007) ‘Salvation and tradition: configurations of faith in a time of death’, Journal of Religion in Africa 37 (1): 84115.

K. Rhine (2009) ‘Support groups, marriage, and the management of ambiguity among HIV-positive women in northern Nigeria’, Anthropological Quarterly 82 (2): 369400.

S. Robins (2004) ‘“Long live Zackie, long live”: AIDS activism, science and citizenship after apartheid’, Journal of Southern African Studies 30 (3): 651–72.

S. Robins (2006) ‘From “rights” to “ritual”: AIDS activism in South Africa’, American Anthropologist 108 (2): 312–23.

E. Schatz (2005) ‘“Take your mat and go!” Rural Malawian women's strategies in the HIV/AIDS era’, Culture, Health and Sexuality 7 (5): 479–92.

B. G. Schoepf (2001) ‘International AIDS research in anthropology: taking a critical perspective on the crisis’, Annual Review of Anthropology 30: 335–61.

A. Simpson (2009) Boys to Men in the Shadow of AIDS: masculinities and HIV risk in Zambia. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

D. J. Smith (2009) ‘Managing men, marriage, and modern love: women's perspectives on intimacy and male infidelity in southeastern Nigeria’ in J. Cole and L. M. Thomas (eds), Love in Africa. Chicago IL and London: University of Chicago Press.

L. Tawfik and S. C. Watkins (2007) ‘Sex in Geneva, sex in Lilongwe, and sex in Balaka’, Social Science and Medicine 64 (5): 1090–101.

M. Vaughan (1987) The Story of an African Famine: gender and famine in twentieth-century Malawi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

S. C. Watkins (2004) ‘Navigating the AIDS epidemic in rural Malawi’, Population and Development Review 30 (4): 673705.

L. Yang , A. Kleinman, B. Link, J. Phelan, S. Lee and B. Good (2007) ‘Culture and stigma: adding moral experience to stigma theory’, Social Science and Medicine 64 (7): 1524–35.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *