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HIV and Marital Deception: The Complex Story of HIV Transmission Among Women in South Sumatra, Indonesia
Authors: Najmah

``Over the last decade in Indonesia, the largest group of new HIV cases, is women of reproductive age (15 – 49 years), at forty percent (Ministry of Health, 2018). This trend is underpinned by the broadly held and fallacious belief, that heterosexual, married women are not at risk of HIV. This study aims to challenge this misconception and investigate the complexity of HIV transmission, with a focus on HIV susceptibility among married women in Indonesia.<br /> Feminist-participatory Action Research was conducted in 2017 and 2021 with twenty-one women with HIV in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia. A combination of interviews, focus group discussions, graphic analysis, and auto-ethnography was employed to assess the impact of the actions of women and men who partake in high-risk behaviours and pass HIV on to their spouses. In most cases, it is the male partner who contracts HIV through these behaviours, and passes it onto his wife or partner. Often with his knowledge, sometimes without. Married men may have affairs or polygamously married to other women, without his first wife’s knowledge or consent. Furthermore, men who are bisexual or homosexual face pressures to get married to women, and may contract HIV through hidden, unsafe sex with other men.<br /> This article provides an original contribution to the concept of marital deception, and married women’s vulnerability to HIV. To address this issue, we argue that Indonesians need a higher level of health and HIV literacy, as well as open discussions of sexual practices, which challenge deeply held social conventions regarding sexuality, marriage and the role that gender plays in supporting damaging behaviours and HIV.``

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