Love, Money, and HIV: Reflections

Love, Money, and HIV-Biopolitics

Scholar Sanyu Mojola expounds in her book Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming A Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS (2014) on how young Kenyan women, despite the AIDS epidemic and how much they are aware of it, approach their relationship, financial issues, and education. Mojola notes how young African women with a higher level of education and socioeconomic status have higher rates of HIV/AIDS (36). She explains that there are three forms of explanation as to why women have higher rates than men: (1) biophysiological, (2) proximate, and (3) social and ecological setting (9-22). These women are more likely to have HIV, even if they only one male partner, as it is culturally acceptable for men to have multiple partners. Some women have different types of partners, which includes transactional sex relationship and romantic partners (35). Married men may pursue sexual relationships for sexual relief. Their wives may also have other sexual relationships while their husbands are absent. These women who engage in sexual relationships is out of loneliness or financial struggle. It is by the logic of partner choice that puts women at risk for HIV+. Expression of love codifies through consumerism and gendered practices. Across the world, women follow gendered practices, such as feminine products and shopping, as a way of feeling attractive or authentic, to themselves and other people. They are also buying Western modernity through products.

In chapter 4, Love, Money, and HIV Prevention, Mojola discusses how people’s concept of masculinity and love influences their choices. Young men struggle with their sense of masculinity as they feel they must prove their manhood to their partners by sexuality; thus, abstinence is difficult (83-97). These men also struggle with condoms, as they think they do not have enough time as they persuade their partners, and its gestures the relationship as short-term rather than long term (92). The cultural components determine the outcomes by what ideology people internalize as authentic. The institutions influence the outcomes for the HIV+ epidemic by

Mojola suggests stopping the epidemic includes providing resources for young women to rely on themselves for financial support without dating men. Some successful programs or workshops like IMAGE helps women by learning life skills and running a business. Granting financial independence for these women also gives bargaining power in relationships, thus lowering the risk for HIV. However, programs like TRY or SHAZ! fail to help women by the lack of trust of their mentorship, financial instability, and challenges of running a business, thus worsening the epidemic (190). Changing culture like normalizing HIV testing and condoms also helps to stop the outbreak. Ending the paradox for the HIV epidemic also includes ending the entanglement between love and money in relationships and culture.

Overall, Mojala’s book explains the dilemma of the HIV epidemic by its biopower and biopolitics. People struggle to find ways to empower themselves by systemic oppression. People also find unexpected ways to empower themselves. An example is the biopolitics for Indian sex workers claiming biological and life citizenship as they confront and resist legal regulation that criminalizes and stigmatizes them (Lakkimsetti, 2014; 201-226). Governmentality reflects the tactics and institutions that allow modernity to exercise power beyond its formal structure (205). Ultimately, ending the capitalism between love and money grants freedom for people.  


  1. How do laws relating to sex workers relate to Mojola’s book? How do laws or culture that either criminalize or decriminalize sex work relate to the book?
  2. How does religion play a role in gender and HIV?
    • I ask this because I think about how religious belief influences people’s actions relating to sexuality, such as condoms. Guilt or shame can also play a role in sexuality, especially since the concept of purity is often associated with sexuality.
  3. How does biopolitics differ for HIV for other marginalized groups, like the queer community, in South Africa?
  4. How does sexual and domestic violence relate to gender attitudes for women with HIV?
    • I ask this because I think about how culture and laws on sexual violence influence risk factors, such as the normalization of violence or myths associating with violence.
  5. How can technology influence the HIV+ epidemic?
    1. I ask this because I think about how social media correlates to social movements, like how virtual content can spread awareness of systemic oppression for women with HIV? 


Lakkimsetti, Chaitanya. “‘HIV Is Our Friend’: Prostitution, Biopower, and the State in Postcolonial India.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 40, no. 1, 2014, pp. 201–226.

Mojola, Sanyu A. 2014. Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS. University of California Press.

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