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Volume Four Winter 2005-Spring 2006 Numbers 1-2.
HIV Related Stigma, Interpersonal Relationships and Health Seeking Behavior: A Focus Group Analysis
Agostino M. Zamberia
Department of Sociology
University of Swaziland
Private Bag 4, Kwaluseni M201
Published online: February 10, 2017
HIV-related stigma presents a formidable challenge to the development of effective AIDS prevention programs in Africa. Although the diverse actors involved in AIDS prevention and control initiatives in African countries have incorporated the issue of stigma in their programs, few empirical studies have explored the nature of HIV-related stigma to unveil its contextual basis and impact on individuals and groups. To mount effective prevention and treatment interventions, stigmatizing beliefs and behaviors in relation to individuals and groups defined by popular opinion as being at risk for HIV infection need to be adequately understood. This article, therefore, examines the influence of these beliefs on health-seeking behavior, interpersonal relations, and partnership formation. It highlights the complexity of HIV-related stigma and associated negative stereotypes using data from focus group discussions (FGDs) with students from the University of Swaziland. The data shows that these beliefs engender social exclusion and weaken group ties through a labeling process that sets apart some individuals as morally suspect. Considering the meaning and social consequences of HIV/AIDS, the article proposes some measures to minimize stigmatization and to foster a social environment conducive to effective AIDS prevention and control initiatives.