Doctoral Thesis: Determining Factors of HIV/AIDS-Related Stigma in South Africa
More than thirty years after its discovery, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), shows devastating impact on many societies in the world. In 2009, South Africa faced the largest and most destructive epidemic worldwide, with more than 450,000 citizens newly infected with HIV. More than 310,000 South Africans died of AIDS-related diseases. Besides their suffering, people with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) face negative social responses including prejudice, discrimination and violence. These reactions are summarized under the term “HIV/AIDS related Stigma”- and turned out to be a barrier to effective responses to the pandemic. Only if determining factors of HIV related stigma can be identified, countermeasures can be developed, evaluated and established.
The current research project is designed as a quantitative statistical analysis with main focus on the development of standardized indicators that allow a valid and reliable measurement of HIV-related stigma among young adults in South Africa. In addition, the extent and the impact of possible stigma determinants will be investigated. The scientific framework involves classical sociological stigma theories and insights from existing empirical studies that were conducted inside and outside South Africa during the last two decades.
The main purpose of the project is the quantification of HIV related stigma and its possible determining factors among young adults. The best way to access young adults is the education system. Therefore, it is intended to conduct the research in cooperation with the Cape Town Universities and the FET Colleges in the Western Cape Region as partner institutions. Students are considered to be a specific key group within the South African society, as today´s university students will hold key positions in future South Africa. Their present attitudes can forge either tolerance or future prejudice and stigmatization. If recognized early enough, the environment of colleges and universities provides many opportunities to intervene against stigma, before attitudes have strengthened and the students have taken position in society.