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Food and HIV-related Stigma exploring the socio-cultural aspects in South Africa

Titilayo Okoror, PhD Candidate1, Collins O. Airhihenbuwa, PhD, MPH1, Olive Shisana, Ph D2, Mpunmi Dirwayi-Zungu, Msc2, Edward A. Smith, DrPH3, Darigg Brown, MPH1, and Julia Louw2. (1) Department of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University, 315 East Health & Human Development, University Park, State College, PA 16801, 814-865-2007, tao122@psu.edu, (2) Human Sciences Research Council, Private Bag X9182, Cape Town, South Africa, (3) Prevention Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University, S-109 Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802

Research studies on HIV-related stigma have focused extensively on its impact on sharing utensils such as cups, and cutleries. However, HIV-related stigma goes beyond willingness to share utensils, especially in African societies, since the socio-cultural function of food exceeds its role as a source of nutrition in these societies. Food preparation, such as who does the cooking, who it is shared with, the hierarchy in which it is served, the seating arrangement while eating are few of the ways in which food function as a mode of defining and describing relationships and cultural identity. At the end of 2 years of a 5 year HIV and AIDS stigma related study funded by NIH, 50 focus groups and 59 key informant interviews have been conducted among 481 men and women in three Black communities (Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, and Mitchell's Plain) around Cape Town, South Africa. Participants were persons living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA), health care workers, and community members and leaders. We use the PEN-3 cultural model to examine the meanings and the contexts of HIV and AIDS-related stigma in South Africa. Preliminary findings show that PLWHA would not disclose their HIV status to avoid being isolated from participating in the socio-cultural aspects of food preparation, while others that have disclosed have experienced alienation. The symbolic meanings of food should be a major consideration in addressing reducing and eliminating HIV and AIDS related stigma in South Africa.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Food and Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No

Sociocultural Dimensions of HIV Prevention and Care

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA