Ambiguous Agency: The Conceptualization of HIV Risk among Young Women Selling Sex

Nkhoma, Pearson. 2019. 'Ambiguous Agency: The Conceptualization of HIV Risk among Young Women Selling Sex'. In: 2nd International Medical Humanities Conference: “The Body: In Parts or As Whole”. Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) (formelly, College of Medicine), Malawi 31 July-2 August 2019. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Background: HIV remains a significant global health problem and one of the major causes of death in Malawi. Despite its prevalence rate having been reduced in the country and biomedical advances to fight HIV and AIDS globally, the necessary scale of change in human behaviour in terms of sexual practices, willingness to acknowledge infection and medication compliance in Malawi has not been achieved and efforts to influence infection reducing behaviours continue to meet with strong resistance across the country.

Objective: This paper explores the perception and conceptualization of HIV risk among young women selling sex – who are categorized by UNAIDS as among the five main key population groups that are particularly vulnerable to HIV.

Methods: Through a participatory research approach, the paper draws on stories of nineteen girls and young women in two Malawian cities who have been selling sex since their childhood.

Results & Discussions: Grounded on competing theoretical frameworks in making sense of the young women’s involvement in and their experiences of prostitution, the paper critically explores their conceptualization of HIV risk and the socioeconomic contexts as reinforced by chronic poverty and deeply embedded by patriarchal practices and gender power imbalances. Here, the paper further discusses and makes sense of this conceptualization to develop a critical understanding of their behavior change and decision-making process with regards to how and why young women selling sex conceptualizes HIV and the risk of HIV in the manner they do while drawing out the impact this has on HIV intervention efforts.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Prostitution, Ambiguous Agency, Gender, HIV/AIDS, 90-90-90, Capability Approach, Risk, Decision Making

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)
Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS) > Centre for Community Engagement Research


31 July 2019Published

Event Location:

Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) (formelly, College of Medicine), Malawi

Date range:

31 July-2 August 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Dec 2023 10:08

Last Modified:

09 Feb 2024 18:36


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