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.

Semiotic Analysis Time: A Slice of Sensual Pizza

A Slice of Sensual Pizza

The printed advertisement is for a pizza brand called Daiya, which the name Daiya sounds closer to the word dairy. According to, the name Daiya is also a Polish feminine name for “gift” or “present”. The ad is from a website called and published in July 2016 in the United States. I do not know if the ad exists elsewhere. The advertisement’s audience seems general, except its for those want dairy-free, like vegans and lactose-intolerant consumers. The message suggests that the taste of the pizza is exceptional good, by expressing humor. The socio-historical context of the text is that it is part of contemporary consumerism. Cultures differ from each other in advertisements by its signifiers. The ads may focus more on text rather than the image. Some ads may inform readers about the product by its advantages. Other ads may use aesthetic approaches to attract consumers. Ads can use humor or reflective storytelling to get consumers’ attention. It involves using a discourse with dominant ideas. Researchers can use a visual method as a communication tool as “border crossers” (Liebenberg 2009). We can deconstruct the semiotics by searching for its meanings, such as ironies or casual relations. The metaphors can serve as an analogy while metonymy as an association. The relevance of analyzing the ad is to understand what social groups are represented and hailed and their mythologies. Mythology involves associating a product with cultural meaning, as part of the strategy (Tolson 1996). The people representing in advertisements disclose cultural implications through gestures, traits, and fashion. The messages in advertisements reveal implicitly or explicitly cultural values or mythologies.

Syntagmatic Analysis
The connotation is a romance novel, and the subject is pizza. The important signifiers are the people, location, and text. The ad seems to be a parody of an actual romance novel called The Princess and her Pirate by Lois Creiman. The couple is holding each other in a romantic pose. The man is feeding his partner a slice of pizza. The woman appears astonished as cheese is stretching from her mouth. The woman is holding a man passively while the man is holding the woman more assertively. They are on the cover of a book, hinting they are fictional people. The book appears to be on a marble table. The title of the book said, “A Yearning Supreme” Below, the book states, “CHEESIER THAN EVER” and features the brand logo, Daiya. The book with the title “Supreme” hints what type of pizza Daiya is advertising to the consumer.
The cultural codes refer to romance novels and the medieval era. Romance novels are known to depict covers featuring a heterosexual couple. Romance novels written for and by heterosexual women tend to depict male heroes as hypermasculine, such as expressing dominance in relationships (Allan 2016). The woman appears feminine. Her dressing codes are long hair, white dress, and make-up. The man appears masculine. He has short hair, five-o-clock shadow, muscular, and wears a vest that exposes his chest. He also carries a sword around his waist, indicating protection for the woman. The ad reminds readers of heteronormativity by featuring a heterosexual couple following traditional gender roles. If the roles were switched, such as a muscular woman holding man assertively, the readers might interpret the couple’s gender roles as part of the message, likely humor. The couple appears white and physically fit; it also erases people of color and various body types. Humor is suggested by an ad based on its image and text. The line “CHEESIER THAN EVER” refers to the term cheesy. The term cheesy refers to inadequate quality. Romance novels are often mocked in culture for their book covers and contents. Many romantic covers tend to depict a couple with exaggerated gender expressions. An example is a man having large muscles and the woman expressing passive gestures. The theme of the book is medieval. The clothes and background suggest the book is about a medieval era. The man’s sword symbolizes the era. The castle is shown in the background. The woman’s dress appears medieval due to its sleeves and corset.

Paradigmatic Analysis
The central oppositions suggested in the text are the brand and advertisement. Readers can see the logo of the product below the novel. The fonts of the novel appear Edwardian Script, and it is glowing white. The fonts represent the binary of the novel and logo. The font of the novel represents fantasy, while the font below the novel is reality. The couple’s outfits suggest history while outside of the novel is present. History involves the concept of what was then versus now. The realism of the image is subjective to readers. The book cover appears to be a digital drawing rather than a photo and appears hyper-realistic. The logo includes an image of pizza; the image appears to be photo rather than a drawing. Many pizza products feature a photo of pizza as part of the box cover.
The oppositions have importance by its symbolic meanings. The pizza in the novel represents the commercial itself. The readers are aware they are looking at an ad. We are reminded that reading fiction is to escape reality. People enjoy reading fiction to relax and experience emotions by its story. The pizza in the book cover signals to readers that eating pizza can be part of our leisure. The cheese dripping out of the woman’s mouth represents how sensual eating pizza can be for people, like kissing. Readers can see the logo, which is also a box cover for the pizza. The image hints readers what the box cover looks like so that they can remember it when they are shopping.
If the ad presents its product differently, like just an image of the product within the book cover while a fictional couple is reading the book together, it may not get the reader’s attention. It could indicate pizza as part of daily life, and it could tell readers what they can do if they want pizza by showing them a couple reading about Daiya pizza. A book about Daiya pizza could suggest how the product is interesting enough for people to read a book about it.

Reading Against the Grain
The ideological messages endorsed by the advertisement is its simplistic meanings. The ad gives readers simple messages. The image has few lines of words, mainly on humor. Although the pizza states it is dairy-free, with “cheesier than eveR”, implying that its has more cheese than cheese itself, by the brand logo below the novel, the ad lacks further information about the product. I do not know what the exact ingredients nor health benefits of the product presents. The image seems to explicitly encourage readers to only focus more on taste through symbolic messages. The ad also wants readers to associate pizza with romance through a parody of romance novels. Some consumers enjoy romance novels as a form of escapism, as novels allow readers to escape bleak reality by focusing their fantasy. The ad reminds readers how pizza can associate with love life, even it is still fictional. The pizza seems to represent exceptional food by presenting it as a love potion. The woman’s facial and body gestures suggest that she is amazed by its taste. The slice of pizza seems to serve as a kiss from the man. People enjoy reading or watching romantic genres for various reasons. People may desire an ideal partner or sensual moments of stories.
The aspect of the reality is that the novel hides are the relationships of the couple. The reader knows the couple as fictional characters in the novel, but we do not know how they met or what happens exactly in the story afterward. The novel subtly reminds readers that it is fictional. The novel itself is not a real novel to buy. It is a fictional-fictional work of art.
As the reader, I am looking at the novel lying on the table. The text below the book suggests for me to interpret the novel as cheesy. The term cheesy also makes me think about the cheese itself besides its metaphorical meaning. The social implication of the ad is that I am a savvy consumer. My role in the advertisement is that I am someone looking for healthy food and better cultural taste than those reading those sorts of novels. Enjoyment. The psychological implication of the ad is that the humor of the ad will make me curious about the product. The image also suggests that the quality of food, particularly its cheese, will be part of my motivation to buy it.
The camera position I see as a reader is that I am looking at a book. The book is centered, as well as the slice of pizza. The pizza seems to be the main aspect of the image. The pizza appears brighter and seems unusual in a setting like the novel. The pizza appears strange because pizza does not represent the medieval period as caste or sword does. The couples are looking at each other, ignoring the reader. They seem more fixated on each other. The message may be that they are just fictional characters. The reader is focusing on the slice of pizza of the book cover, which is between the couple.


Allan, Jonathan A. “The Purity of His Maleness.” The Journal of Men’s Studies, vol. 24,
no. 1, 2016, pp. 24–41., doi:10.1177/1060826515624382.
Liebenberg, Linda. “The Visual Image as Discussion Point: Increasing Validity in
Boundary Crossing Research.” Qualitative Research, vol. 9, no. 4, 2009, pp. 441–467., doi:10.1177/1468794109337877.
Tolson, Andrew. Mediations Text and Discourse in Media Studies. TPB, 1996.