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AIDS Activists Become New Feminists in Africa

Tracy Jerrett | NBC News   in 
December 2, 2014

For Nontando Kewana, watching a sister die of AIDS was enough. Living with a young daughter in the Nyanga township in Cape Town, South Africa, where nearly 30 percent of the population is HIV positive, Kewana wanted control of her own body, her future, her life.

In Nyanga it is generally the men who decide when to have sex and the men who control the use of condomsโ€” the main source of protection against HIV. Kewana’s sister was infected after her husband slept with other women and did not use a condom.

So Kewana, 25, joined the vanguard of a new kind of feminism, one that is gaining a hold in the HIV community. She decided that to protect herself she would help find new technologies meant to give women control over their own bodies and protect themselves from contracting the deadly virus.

Kewana became a participant in an ongoing study testing whether a leave-in vaginal ring could be used as HIV prevention medication. It’s one of many technologies HIV scientists are developing with hopes of creating preventative medications controlled by and for women.

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