Masking diversity – the problems with labels for key populations

'Mobile men with money': HIV prevention and the erasure of difference.

Aggleton P, Bell SA, Kelly-Hanku A. Glob Public Health. 2014;9(3):257-70. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2014.889736. Epub 2014 Mar 4.

Mobile Men with Money is one of the latest risk categories to enter into HIV prevention discourse. Used in countries in Asia, the Pacific and Africa, it refers to diverse groups of men (e.g. businessmen, miners and itinerant wage labourers) who, in contexts of high population movement and economic disparity, find themselves at heightened risk of HIV as members of a 'most-at-risk population', or render others vulnerable to infection. How adequate is such a description? Does it make sense to develop HIV prevention programmes from such understandings? The history of the epidemic points to major weaknesses in the use of terminologies such as 'sex worker' and 'men who have sex with men' when characterising often diverse populations. Each of these terms carries negative connotations, portraying the individuals concerned as being apart from the 'general population', and posing a threat to it. This paper examines the diversity of men classified as mobile men with money, pointing to significant variations in mobility, wealth and sexual networking conducive to HIV transmission. It highlights the patriarchal, heteronormative and gendered assumptions frequently underpinning use of the category and suggests more useful ways of understanding men, masculinity, population movement, relative wealth in relation to HIV vulnerability and risk.

Abstract access  [1]

Editor’s notes: Criticism of the use of labels to identify groups of people considered to be at high risk of HIV infection is not new, but this paper serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of such labels and abbreviations. The authors explain why a term that has entered common usage in recent years ‘mobile men with money’, is inappropriate. They argue that the label plays to stereotypes of men as powerful risk takers and, usually, women as their vulnerable victims. The use of the term hides the diversity of men who move around because of their work and other activities, who may be in very different professions and circumstances. It also suggests that mobility is a negative activity, overlooking the great economic and other benefits of migration. They argue that the term is not helpful for HIV programming or activities.  It is unhelpful because it fails to take account of the structural factors that influence and shape the risks many men and women, face. It is often tempting to make use of abbreviations and catchy phrases in our work. This paper helps to remind us why we need to think carefully about terminology and labelling.

Gender [4], Stigma and social exclusion [5]
Africa [6], Asia [7], Latin America [8], Northern America [9], Oceania [10]
Australia [11], Bahrain [12], Bangladesh [13], Botswana [14], Brazil [15], Burkina Faso [16], Chile [17], China [18], Ethiopia [19], India [20], Iran (Islamic Republic of) [21], Iraq [22], Japan [23], Kenya [24], Kuwait [25], Mexico [26], Nepal [27], Nigeria [28], Oman [29], Papua New Guinea [30], Qatar [31], Saudi Arabia [32], South Africa [33], Uganda [34], United Arab Emirates [35], United States of America [36], Viet Nam [37], Yemen [38], Zimbabwe [39]
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