project, which is the focus of their critical analysis: male circumcision as AIDS prevention. Jungar and Oinas show a) that the scientific evidence backing the connection between male circumcision and HIV/AIDS prevention is shaky, to say the least, and b) that, in fact, if taken seriously this ‘prevention strategy’ would have very negative consequences for women: “If circumcision were seen as a way of prevention, it would probably decrease women’s possibility to negotiate safe sex. … The real risk for women is that medical ‘knowledge’ of the protective effects of male circumcision may lead to neglect of other prevention measures.” The male circumcision debate, Jungar and Oinas conclude, seems more involved in reproducing imagery on ‘African sexuality’ than in envisioning actual change.
Seen from women’s points of view—as also pointed out by Jungar and Oinas —HIV/AIDS research and feminist theory share conceptual interests, regarding challenging gender stereotypes and identification and change of gender power relations. There is a correlation between high rates of HIV/AIDS infection and women’s lack of bedroom power. “If more women have the power to ‘say no’ to unwanted and unsafe sex, the HIV infection rate would dramatically decline in Africa” (Machera, this volume). Thus the HIV/AIDS pandemic may be seen as an opportunity to focus discussions on sexuality in the context of gender power relations. According to a report from a colloquium in Durban in 2002 HIV/AIDS may be regarded “as an opportunity to work with young people on the basis of their self-knowledge, and towards achieving a range of goals—from better health to better relationships and more confident adulthood. … Prevention of the spread of HIV can only be achieved through greater de facto gender equality” (Burns 2002:6—7). Along these lines HIV/AIDS may be conceived as a key feminist issue (cf. Jungar and Oinas, this volume).