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Experiences of women living with hiv/aids

The intersectional invisibility model provides a very credible realistic view on contentions of social hierarchy, social biases and prejudices that relates stigmatizing identities with consequential outcomes on social justice. Emphasizing Morris & Bhunjun, 2007 on invisibility, Hankivsky, 2009 writes, “there are many linguistic, cultural, ethnic, religious, income, health (HIV/AIDS), educational, age and political differences within the wider group of “Black women living in Canada” with their many different perspectives and needs, … seeking out the many different (African) women in the community can bring out different experiences and perspectives” (p. 5). Myriads of associating identities accompany African women more than that found with the main group; for instance, SSA with negative HIV sero-negativity (defined as the prototype) and a seeming, “death sentence” for any African with HIV sero-positivity. However, the potential for fluidity of status and identities exist for the former group. African women are “marginal members within a marginalized group” (p. 381) of sub-Saharan African women not having the HIV/AIDS disease. The “prototype’ (Purdue-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008), exerts on the non-prototype (African women) experiences of invisibility which is a failure to fully recognize people with intersecting sub-identities as member of the constituent or main groups. These African women can be socially defined as those of “intersectional subordinate group identities” with oppressive consequences to their health outcomes, apart from the impact to their family. They go through visible distinct oppressive situations, and rarely, are their voices heard and understood; with an inability to achieve leadership status and exert social influence within their main groups, thus rendering their socially invisible (p.383).

In essence, we see androcentric patriarchal multi-level patriarchal and religious ideologies defining them holistically from their sending nations and contextually in Canada, with their acquired and ascribed statuses. In Canada, the dominant society is fringed on a hierarchy of androcentric structures – the white male and somewhere along this ladder is the black male with other dominant gender before them. Secondly, the different structural bias at the levels of socio-economic systems in the society identifies them with ethnocentric ideals as African women. These are restrictive “ centrisms” that constrains their efforts to fully integrate in Canada. The heterocentrism concepts by their culture, traditions, and religious contexts places them at a conflict. They will not want to be defined as non-heterosexual (Goparaju & Warren-Jeanpiere, 2012; Purdue-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008); despite their non-heterosexual practices of themselves. African women are seemingly designed culturally and exclusively; a mold fit only for heterosexual patterns and characteristics. This, especially, may not necessarily be extended to their male sexual partners. and/or their sexual partner or husband going through challenges associated with “down lows” (P. 385). Down low due to an inability of culture representations to elicit specific social cognition of this intersectional subordinate group. Down low is a sexual slang, where men who live heterosexually are in secret sexual relationship with men and significantly impacts negatively for the heterosexual African woman, HIV transmission and prevention management (Goparaju & Warren-Jeanpiere, 2012). However, as emphasized more by Denizet-Lewis’s down low and the African-American gay males, Purdue-Vaughns & Eibach writes that these bisexual experiences are for an affirmation of their African men’s masculinities, declaration of their racial identity, a social distancing from the white gay culture, and the socio-economic dependency (social determinants of health) and unity on and of their family (p.385). African women have peculiar experiences as an intersectional subordinate group that has not being culturally represented (Purdue-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008) because of “Coming out”: A narrative discourse (p.385) peculiar to gay men in western countries like Canada. Therefore, coming out represents a cultural distortion, put another way, a cultural invisibility that is indirectly affects African women. It extends to their sexual partners (black men) due to an inherent fear of economic marginalization on a backdrop of heterosexual family.

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Furthermore, the SSA WLHA will experience intersectional invisibility as she does not fit the prototypes of their constituent subordinate groups (p. 381) because of the two and more subordinate identities she bears. Their non-prototypical intersectionality, furthermore, is stemmed more from her HIV status, giving them “a marginalized status within the marginalized group (SSA women that are HIV sero-negative)” (p.389). These WLHA from sub-Saharan Africa should be studied, also, in the totality of multiple intersecting identities, a seeming devalued identity of multiple jeopardy (Purdue-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008) they carry from intermingling social positons co-acting in ways to discriminate and marginalize them further way from the society. Their societal integration is near impossible. They are at the bottom of the Canadian hierarchical ladder falling behind white women, HIV sero- negative black women or ethnic minority men (French, 2018). They face multiple harassment almost on daily occurrences in their life pursuits such as an assessing economic advantage at their work place as the take home pay is not commensurate with their job specification because she has to put in more at work. They are defined by an incapability to access of structural products and services as their non-citizenship becomes another greater barrier apart from other identities. An ensuing cascade of unfolding stressors follows with potentials of linkage to leading causes of death from chronic stress seen as, heart disease; cancer; lung ailments; accidents; liver cirrhosis; and suicide to chronic stress (APAamerican psychologicl association, ).

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Their “historical invisibility” (Purdue-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008) relates to the disenfranchising experiences of the black women’s race which dates back to their migration as free and runaway slaves to Nova Scotia (Agnew, 2005); “to historical experiences from colonization and modern-day slavery” (Tharao & Massaquoi, 2001). These experiences have continued to depolarize the black women with unfair accounts of harsh treatments; and historical nuances of mistrusts that involves negative beliefs, labels and interpretations based on intersecting identities. Furthermore, the concept behind “othering” is exhibited to reveal their issues as challenging and non-existent by the determining dominant groups at every level of the society (Jensen, 2011) due to the belief that the other is intellectually, morally inferior and should be subjected to discriminatory stances. The potential of being social integrated becomes an unattainable and seemingly impossible.

They, directly and indirectly, decide to be invisible as engagement in social connections are futile due to historical vulnerabilities: Can this be why they are minimally devoid of activism, advocacy, political organizing? As these connections may not yield positive results based on their past experiences. It is obvious that prior experiences of social life and connections have not favored them as a group because of demoralizing and distorting historical accounts. Historical narratives about aids/funding advocacy for charitable causes that impact on them has not being sustained due to level of insignificance placed on them. It is possible that there may be distribution of resources; anecdotally, experiences show that it is more of a trickling down effect across the social hierarchy of women affected by HIV in Canada. Their experiences of invisibility are further stretched on as they are harassed with codes of silence and associating extra burden of coming forward (Crenshaw, 1992). This brings out, in addition, the political invisibility (Purdue_Vaughns & Eibach, 2008, p. 385) behind the neglect seen with advocacy groups who end up focusing on issues that affect main groups rather than subordinate groups. The creation and apportionment of social products and resources can marginalize African women due to the interrelatedness of patriarchy and androcentric ideologies (Matthew, 2011). Most household in Canada are female headed (Statistisc Canada, 2011), however issues of black men are more advocated than that affecting black women such as incarceration and teenage pregnancy despite the latter that may indirectly promote HIV transmission. The failure of an understanding that advocacy for these women’s health and social challenges affects those with subordinate identity may continually lead to a social disintegration and exclusion that unjustly pathologize African women with her obvious multiple sub-ordinate identities.

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