Body perceptions of HIV and AIDS: the memory Box Project

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University of Cape Town

In South Africa, nearly fifteen per cent of the population is HIV positive and its impacts go beyond the disease itself. Biomedical treatment can be effective in reducing the physical effects of the disease, but does not deal with these wider issues, or with the body perceptions of the clients. This leads to their disempowerment, which is evident in the dealings that clients have with medical practitioners and the high levels of non-adherence to treatment. Re-appropriation of their bodies - through the use of tools, including body mapping and personal narratives - can offer a way of empowering those who have been stigmatised and isolated. This paper explores these issues through the body perceptions of and responses to HIV and AIDS of a group of women from Khayelitsha, near Cape Town. This work is based mainly on testimonies of participants in the Memory Box Project run by the AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.? These testimonies were collected by Jonathan Morgan (the Director of the Memory Box Project) and Kylie Thomas. A group of poor HIV positive women show how this process can work but also, how the effects may in the long run, be ambiguous.