A Theology for the Older, Female Hiv-Infected Body

In: Exchange
Christina Landman Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Tshwane

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Aids management programmes in South Africa focus primarily on people under the age of 48. Local theologies, too, address mainly the needs of HIV-infected people between the ages of 15 and 50. This article, then, argues for theological attention to women over the age of 50 who remain voiceless and isolated in their bodies. Although Body Theology as developed by Lisa Isherwood does not deal with the HIV-infected body as such, the insights of this theology, in dialogue with the experiences of HIV-infected women over 50, are used here to construct a basic theology for empowering the four 'bodies' of the older woman living with HIV: the physical body is to be embodied as a site of resistance and enjoyment, the symbolic body as a site of relationship and beauty; the political body as the site of energy, and the spiritual body as the site of recreation and resurrection. Women over 50 are in special need of theological care because of the loneliness ensuing from the fact that, in this age group, the women/men ratio in South Africa is 100 to 70. This renders older women vulnerable to illicit sexual encounters.

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