AIDS and the Other: Race, Gender and Social Policy in the Peter Mwai Affair
AIDS has accentuated divisions between homosexuals and heterosexuals, the First World and the Third World, and men and women. It has been used to justify the interest and actions of many different institutions, from government to press. It has accentuated the need to track and class individuals in a sexual demography, and has precipitated increased surveillance, administration and governance of particular populations.
Nothing illustrates this better than the case of Peter Mwai, a Kenyan charged in October 1993 with a number of offences relating to the infection of women with the HIV virus. He was eventually sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. The resulting panic has driven calls for tightened immigration policy and mandatory HIV testing of immigrants.
This paper argues that the ethnocentric reaction to the case has, ironically, deleteriously affected women, because it has overtaken the greater claim that every day women in New Zealand find it impossible to negotiate safe sex, and every day men fail to take responsibility for their own and their partner’s safety. In all of the response to the Peter Mwai tragedy there has been a total absence of response to the targeting of women’s needs by public health authorities.