The social context of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
The world region most likely to record the greatest numbers of deaths from Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is sub-Saharan Africa, where most transmission of the HIV virus is heterosexual. Drawing extensively on the primarily anthropological, often scattered, literature and on their own research, the authors argue that sexual activity in sub-Saharan Africa has not been subject to the same moral and religious constraints as in the West. Sexuality has been treated in a more matter-of-fact way, and sexual relations, quite distinct from prostitution, often involve material transactions. The pervasiveness of this transactional element means that sudden changes in sexual networking will lead to the deterioration of the situation of many socially marginal women and their children. The lesser constraints on acceptable sexual activity have resulted in a high level of heterosexual networking, which provides both a considerable risk of HIV transmission and a strong resistance to the control of AIDS through the enforcement of monogamy. The parameters of likely change areunknown because of the inadequacy of social scientific research into the nature and extent of African sexual networks. (author's)