Sex, Love, Money and AIDS: The Dynamics of Premarital Sexual Relationships in Ghana
University of Wales, SwanseaEmpowering women, especially in developing countries, in AIDS prevention is one of the most important strategies in slowing down the AIDS pandemic. However, the different contexts within which young women are exhorted to embark on HIV risk-reduction sexual behaviors and the difficulties involved are often not fully explored. The article highlights the apparent powerlessness of young women in premarital sexual exchange relationships in urban Ghana where many sexual relationships are contracted with material gain in mind. Using qualitative methods, the article explores the concept of sexual exchange where sexual services are exchanged for material gain - a situation quite different from prostitution, as it is understood in Europe or America. Given that women engage in sexual exchange mainly for financial reasons, the article concludes by arguing that improving women's economic status to enable them to advance their occupational careers, although highly desirable, is perhaps not enough to empower women without substantial change in contemporary societal norms which support sexual exchange.