Women living with HIV: Stories of powerlessness and agency

Rebecca de Souza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Married monogamous women in India are now considered to be at higher risk from HIV/AIDS than previously considered. Gender inequalities rooted in an inherently patriarchal social system serves to marginalize women within the family unit, making them more susceptible to infection. Guided by postcolonial feminist theory, the study uses narrative methodologies to tell the stories of two women living with HIV/AIDS in India who were infected by their husbands. In particular, the study explores how culture and power inequities shape their unique experiences of stigma and how women demonstrate agency in their lives in a context of seeming powerlessness. The analysis reveals that stigma is inextricably linked to systemic patriarchy, but women demonstrate agency by articulating their own understanding of disease and illness, reflexively contesting cultural assumptions, and appropriating the courage to speak out for themselves and others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-252
Number of pages9
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank Nisha and Malani for sharing their stories with me. It has truly been a pleasure to know you. The author would also like to thank the Graduate School of Purdue University for funding for this project through the Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship.


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