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Cult Health Sex. 2005 Nov-Dec;7(6):527-41.

A comparative analysis of communication about sex, health and sexual health in India and South Africa: Implications for HIV prevention.

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Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.


This paper provides a comparative analysis of modes of dialogue, non-verbal communication and embodied action relating to sex and health in two contrasting countries-India and South Africa-which have the world's two most heavily HIV-affected populations (in terms of numbers of people living with HIV). Drawing on material derived from multiple studies, including ethnographic and other forms of qualitative and multi-disciplinary research, the paper identifies commonalities as well as differences in communication relating to sex and sexual health in these diverse settings. The paper considers: first, how and by whom sex is and is not talked about, in public discourse and private conversation; second, how sexual intention and desire are communicated through indirect, non-verbal means in everyday life; and third, how references to sexuality and the sexual body re-enter within a more explicit set of indigenous discourses about health (rather than 'sexual health' per se), such as semen loss in India and womb 'dirtiness' in South Africa. The concluding section reflects on the implications of a comparative analysis such as this for current policy emphases on the importance of promoting verbal communication skills as part of 'life skills' for HIV prevention.

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