Essay: Spread of HIV / AIDS Has Highlighted

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¶ … spread of HIV / AIDS has highlighted how sexuality is at the intersection of biological and social forces. How has the HIV / AIDS epidemic contributed to the production of certain sexualized social categories and identities? How have different categories of risk been constructed and what have been the consequences of these constructions? How has the HIV / AIDS epidemic transformed gender and/or sexual relations?

The HIV / AIDS epidemic has been an ongoing and relentless expression of the fusion of social forces and biological realities. The biological realities form the underlying science of the epidemic. The transmission of the disease occurs predominantly through sexual contact which is a socialized biological experience. Thus the resultant is the defining and describing of the disease in predominantly social categories.

The early years of HIV / AIDS transmission focused on the homosexual component of the disease. In that it was categorized as a predominantly homosexual disease and to a lesser extent intravenous drug users were seen as a minor subcategory. The focus on homosexuals who were also white, single and very often depicted as promiscuous meant that heterosexuals did not have to be concerned about the disease. The chances of them contracting the disease were very small. This produced a false sense of safety in the heterosexual community. Already at this stage there is the construction of a category for the disease and the associated risk with being in that category.

As the disease spread into the heterosexual community there was an additional need to further create safe and unsafe social categories based on sexual behavior. The additional problem arises in that there is also an intersection of social strata, sexual behavior, and the status of a particular country. The construction of African Aids is an example of this intersection of factors to create a new category of the disease which in reality has limited connection to the science of the disease and more to the social elements of the disease.

African AIDS is constructed as a heterosexual form of HIV / AIDS that dominates the poor and underprivileged and black persons. This is as opposed to regular AIDS which is found in predominantly white countries and among the upper and middle classes. The distinction has no basis in medical fact but it draws support from social determinations. To maintain this narrative it became important to construct a set of sexual behaviors that are uniquely African in nature so that the risk of transmission could be generated by using African elements. The unfortunate result of that action was the identification of behaviors such as dry sex that have little to do with the transmission issues but are needed to keep the dynamic of the narrative current.

It should be noted at this stage that the combination of the concept of risk and specific categories have driven understanding and approaches to reduction of transmission education. The idea of risk refers to the probability of contracting the disease based on a set of behaviors that are also the defining qualities of specific categories. So it the disease is a homosexual disease then the risky behaviors are those associated with a homosexual lifestyle. Thus the focus on anal intercourse and multiple partners becomes pivotal to the reduction of the spread of the disease. This approach however does not adequately address the major concerns of risk but provides a unique platform for the conjoining of risk and social categories.

The result of the construction of risk based on a set of social categories is the creation of associated myths that must support the risk construction. In the case of African males there is the suggestion that they are hostile to the using of condoms. This hostility is seen as uniquely African when it is not. Males whether African or European have distaste for condom use. The myth when constructed also feeds into age old stereotypes about specific peoples and their sexual behavior and preferences. Thus a large part of the construction of categories is the repeat of colonial ideas that depict Africans as highly promiscuous, poor, uneducated and essentially primitive. The categories of HIV / AIDS would have a high correlation with colonial and hegemonic construction of African identities.

The epidemic has also had limited impacted on the sexual relations between males and females. The desired change in sexual relations has not occurred with the frequency that researchers had hope. The dominant element in sexual relations remains the power dynamic between the individuals. So that while the reduction of transmission rates requires that women demand that the men in their lives use a condom most women do not possesses the power to make such a demand. It has not given women any greater power over their bodies, except in the case of more middle and upper class women who it might be argued have that power through other sources.

The need to reduce the rate of transmission of HIV / AIDS is a legitimate and laudable goal. The problem however is that the construction of disease categories based on social and other factors have created a false sense security in some communities and despair in others. The risky nature of life itself also encourages others to ignore the possibilities of infection and transmission. What may be required at this point in the battle is a revisiting of the social construction of AIDS with a view to providing a more accurate picture that will facilitate behavior change where it is necessary.

How have different stands on prostitution (abolitionists, regulationists, and supporters of sex worker's rights) viewed the people involved in this type of work? What are the problems associated with dividing sex workers the categories "voluntary" vs. "forced"? What are some of the political, economic, and cultural factors behind the growth of sex tourism and romance tourism?

The presence of prostitution is a clear statement about the imbalances of power within a community and the final resort of many individuals to meet the demands of life. Prostitutes come from diverse backgrounds a social situation but the majority of prostitutes come from poor and underprivileged communities. These women in the main (since there is a heavy gender bias when discussing prostitution) face tremendous challenges to remain on the streets. The odds that they face indicate the levels of desperation and privation that are part of their life challenge.

The persons who engage in prostitution are seen from many different positions which are often informed by a partial consideration of the dynamics of prostitution. Additionally it represents a complete failure to consider the total dynamics of the relationship between the prostitute and her pimp and clients. Abolitionists often view prostitution as an inherently exploitative activity. It is considered as a form of violence toward women. For abolitionists prostitution is often considered as the culmination of years of sexual violence against women. Thus they believe that no women should engage in prostitution it is not work.

Regulationists have a different view of prostitution they consider it to be a business opportunity like other business opportunities but one that require government regulation. Where there is government regulation the work becomes safer for the prostitute and her clients. It would be possible to eliminate the need for pimps and there would be better monitoring of houses the women themselves. The intent of regulation is to move prostitution from the dark alleys and crack houses and make it a "reputable" business model.

The supporters of sex worker rights are very interested in decriminalizing or even legalizing sex work. This is primarily as a means to having women access treatment that could save their lives or make their living conditions better. The rights of sex workers are considered to be as legitimate as the rights of other workers. Issues of safe work conditions and access to medical care a major concern for supporters of sex worker rights. The women are view has having made a choice in terms of employment and often the factors that have influenced that choice are lost in the discussion on the issue.

The division of sex workers into voluntary and forced provides a number of problems since the categories at time obfuscate other critical issues that should be given attention. This only considers the question of coercion and ignores situational considerations for entry into prostitution. There a many women who while they chose to be prostitutes were really forced into the path by life choices made by parents or significant others in their life. There are many women who are addicted to substances who in their sober moments desire to leave prostitution but the addiction has them chained to the life. These women may be considered as engaging in the life voluntarily but the force of circumstances has play heavily into their choices.

Sex tourism provides many of the smaller economies of the world with a legitimate source of foreign income. The challenge for some of these economies would be the replacement of this foreign income should they… [END OF PREVIEW]

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