Skip to main content

The young, the rich, and the beautiful: Secrecy, suspicion and discourses of AIDS in the South African lowveld

Buy Article:

$59.00 plus tax (Refund Policy)

This article investigates emic accounts of the AIDS deaths that have occurred in a village in the Bushbuckridge district of the South African lowveld. I argue that whilst AIDS was publicly hidden and shrouded in secrecy, private gossip created moral scripts about those suspected of having died of AIDS. Details of 47 AIDS deaths revealed that young women and relatively wealthy, sometimes powerful men were vulnerable to AIDS. I suggest that AIDS constitutes a moral crisis; peoples' sexual secrets and desires for commodities and sex featured prominently in local AIDS discourses. The article explores the similarity between AIDS and witchcraft as a metaphorical analogy. Both were highly secretive, and subjective, and circumstantial evidence identified witches and AIDS victims. AIDS and witchcraft were also concerned with the problem of unnatural and uncontrolled desire. The article explores these themes with regard to men and women's experiences respectively. Young 'beautiful women' who used sex to acquire wealth were said to 'buy their own coffins' (die of AIDS), yet relationships with wealthy men ensured household survival. Relatively affluent men were labelled incorrigible 'womanisers' who spread AIDS. Discourses of masculine sexuality focussed on men's lack of agency in sexual decision making. The article points to the tendency to ignore men's vulnerability and its implications for AIDS prevention.
No Reference information available - sign in for access.
No Citation information available - sign in for access.
No Supplementary Data.
No Article Media
No Metrics


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-11-01

More about this publication?
  • Co-Published by NISC and Routledge - Subscriber access available here
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more