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Cult Health Sex. 2008 Oct;10(7):739-52. doi: 10.1080/13691050802213563.

After the fall from grace: negotiation of new identities among HIV-positive women in Peru.

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Despite increasing rates of HIV infection among heterosexual women in Peru, married women remain virtually invisible as a group at risk of HIV or requiring treatment. This study analyzed the intersections of HIV with machismo and marianismo, the dominant discourses in Latin America that prescribe gender roles for men and women. Data sources include recent literature on machismo and marianismo and interviews conducted with 14 HIV-positive women in Lima, Peru. Findings indicate how the stigma associated with HIV constructs a discourse that restricts the identities of HIV-positive women to those of 'fallen women' whether or not they adhere to social codes that shape and inform their identities as faithful wives and devoted mothers. Lack of public discourse concerning HIV-positive marianas silences women as wives and disenfranchises them as mothers, leaving them little room to negotiate identities that allow them to maintain their respected social positions. Efforts must be aimed at expanding the discourse of acceptable gender roles and behaviour for both men and women within the context of machismo and marianismo so that there can be better recognition of all persons at risk of, and living with, HIV infection.

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