Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor D.G. Willms


This document is an ethnographic product of a study funded by the International Development Research (IDRC) called "Talking About AIDS: The Lyantonde Study Group." This research project has been located in Lyantonde, a truck stop and trading centre devastated by HIV/AIDS. The study is a "deeply qualitative endeavour" involving an interdisciplinary team researching toward the development of culturally compelling interventions for persons vulnerable to or infected with HIV1 in rural SouthWestern Uganda. My goal is to elucidate the complexity of risks which confront women in that town on a daily basis. This is achieved through the stories of seven women who are compromised by fear, poverty and suffering. They live in fear of infection, anticipate signs of disease in themselves, and watch loved ones become sick and die.

There is an existing literature - clinical, epidemiological and social cultural - which locates women's risk for HIV/AIDS in a series of risk determinants. Many of these determinants are also revealed in the case studies. These include multiple sexual partners, the history of sexually transmitted disease, proximity to bars or hotels, and the effects of poverty.

Unfortunately, however, this literature does riot reveal the dilemmas that arise daily in these women's lives, or explain how they became compromised in the struggle between traditional expectations and their own personal wants and needs. Caught in situations of high risk, the grave decisions these women make for themselves and their families really are net decisions at all; they are choiceless choices, deadly choices. The case studies lend credence to the theoretical framework posited by Willms and Sewankambo (1994) who suggest that risk is better understood in a series of interconnected domains, namely, the risk reality, the risk situation, and the risk event.

The potential of intervening in a community so heavily devastated by HIV/AIDS lies in finding ways -- via multisectoral strategizing by community facilitators and external resource people to accommodate both ethnographically grounded understandings and ethnographically driven models of risk.

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