Gender and reproductive decision making among couples with HIV/AIDS in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

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Centre for Social Science Research

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University of Cape Town

Gender, the culturally constructed social relations between men and women, plays an important role in determining not only the role and place of both sexes in society but also impacts the distribution of power between the sexes. Men, especially in patriarchal settings, have been observed to dominate women economically, politically and even sexually. Thus men generally exercise power over women. This article explores the impact of gender on reproductive and sexual decision-making among couples with HIV/AIDS. It discusses the decision-making process itself and then examines how gender and the exercise of power influence the decisions or choices made by these couples. Based on a sample of HIV-positive couples from Bulawayo (Zimbabwe), an important observation that this paper makes concerns the lack of male dominance in decision-making among these couples. This is explained in terms of high level of HIV/AIDS awareness among the study sample, the high cost of parental investment to women as well as the behavioural change necessitated by an HIVpositive diagnosis.