Aulette-Root, Anna, Floretta Boonzaier, and Judy Aulette. South African Women Living with HIV: Global Lessons from Local Voices. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. viii + 166 pages. Paperback. $25.00.
South African Women Living with HIV extends the research on the social construction of illness, adding the voices of South African women living with the disease. The emphasis on gender inequality and gender injustice offers a fuller understanding of people living with HIV and makes the book a wonderful addition to research in medical sociology. Psychologists Anna Aulette-Root and Floretta Boonzaier, and sociologist Judy Aulette utilize critical postcolonial feminist theory and qualitative methodology to explore the "political, economic, and social barriers that prevent people from obtaining access to the medicines science has created" (p. 5). The authors are unapologetically feminist in their pursuit of gender equity and gender justice for women living with a disease previously defined by research on males. They highlight women's historical lack of power and control over their own sex lives and even less over the sexual decision-making of men.
One of the goals of the book is to "ensure the findings are useful to women who wish to successfully participate in programs that help them to more effectively maintain their own physical health, decrease the development of resistant strains of HIV, and preserve human rights" (p. 8). Qualitative research allows the authors to present the voices of marginalized women in ways that are helpful to researchers and to other women living with HIV. The book includes discussions of how South African women living with HIV construct a sense of self while living with a stigmatized identity. The authors realize that it is essential to learn from women living with the disease who reside in "so-called Third World nations" (p.8), in order to comprehend the global inequities relating to the types of treatments available and which groups have access to often culturally-specific treatments.
Although Aulette-Root, Boonzaier, and Aulette state that the work is situated in psychological research, the book is solidly sociological in its emphasis on the influence of culture, history, and politics on the lives of the respondents, and in the interplay between various levels of the social world, including family, community, nation, and global society. Adding the history of what the authors call the South African...