chapter  4
20 Pages

Gender, Race and Ethnicity in Official Statistics: Social Categories and the HIV/AIDS ‘Numbers Game’

During its first decade the HIV infection/AIDS pandemic has caused an estimated 500 000 cases of AIDS in women and children, most of which have been unrecognised…. The social, economic, and demographic impacts on women and children have until now been largely neglected…. The major reason for such neglect was that during the early 1980s most AIDS cases were in young and middle-aged men. (Chin, 1990, p. 224, emphasis added)

Statistics on AIDS represent the subject of AIDS: they themselves constitute sets of discursive practices. (Bloor, Goldberg and Emslie, 1991, p. 136)

This chapter is concerned with aspects of HIV/AIDS research and data collection which shape understandings about women and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). It discusses the classifications employed in official statistics which may highlight or mask certain social and sexual categories and misrepresent the situation in respect of women. Brief references to official figures and responses in the mass media provide easy access to the ‘facts’ and help to induce public awareness.