Tuesday 9th April – Love in the time of HIV/AIDS

This week, Tuesday 9th April, we’ll be hosting Anais Bertrand-Dansereau, PhD student at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, who has been researching the love lives of adolescents in Malawi in the context of HIV/AIDS. She used a fascinating methodology working alongside young, peer interviewers. Her paper is titled She drank Surf and she had a serious illness”: Peer interviewing and young people’s stories of abortion in Malawi. The seminar will be held in Silverstone Building, Room 327.

We look forward to seeing you there.


In Malawi as elsewhere in Southern Africa, the AIDS epidemic has brought unprecedented levels of interest for the sexual practices of young people, and countless researchers are trying to measure, quantify and assess the intimate lives of young people in the name of HIV prevention. Classic methods of data collection, such as surveys and interviews, are limited in that they tend to over-report socially acceptable practices, and to under-report those that are socially unacceptable. This has led to methodological creativity, in both quantitative and qualitative approaches, to find different ways of learning about young people’s realities.

In this paper, I present the research that a team of peer interviewers and I conducted in Malawi in 2011, on the topic of young people’s love stories. Peer interviewing offers one way to circumvent biases of social desirability, and to hear stories that are framed using young people’s own categories. I illustrate the interest of such a method with first-person accounts of young men and women’s decision to terminate a pregnancy, a phenomenon that rarely gets told in the first person as abortion is criminalized in Malawi. Using these examples, I argue that peer interviewing is a useful tool for understanding social phenomena by hearing young people’s side of the story.


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