176196 "The first thing that comes to mind is death": PLWHA'S perceptions about HIV/AIDS in three South African Communities

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Juliet Iwelunmor , Department of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State University, University Park, PA
Titilayo A. Okoror , Department of Health and Kinesiology & African American Studies Research Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Nompumelelo Zungu , Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa
Collins O. Airhihenbuwa , Penn State University, University Park, PA
Background: Earlier studies have focused on the public's perceptions and attitudes about HIV/AIDS and people living with HIV/AIDS. Few studies have examined people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) beliefs and perceptions about HIV/AIDS and the impact it may have on their management of their positive sero-status.

Method: We conducted a qualitative study to explore perceptions about HIV/AIDS in three South African communities: Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, and Mitchell's Plain. This study is part of an on-going capacity building HIV/AIDS stigma project in South Africa. The sample consisted of men and women living with HIV/AIDS as well as family members, caregivers and community members in these communities. Data was drawn from participants' responses in 27 focus groups interviews which asked the participants to discuss their views about HIV/AIDS.

Result: Results reveal that majority of the participants synonymously link HIV/AIDS to death. For several participants, HIV/AIDS was perceived as an immediate death sentence because the disease has no cure. Other participants reported that perceiving HIV/AIDS as death decreased the likelihood of knowing and disclosing their status. Most mothers living with HIV/AIDS perceived their status to be a death sentence because they were afraid of dying and leaving their children behind. Contrarily, few participants reported that not viewing HIV/AIDS as a death sentence allowed them to live well with the disease.

Conclusion: These findings indicate the need to take into account perceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS and death as they provide insights into the way people living with HIV/AIDS seek treatment and manage their status in South Africa

Learning Objectives:
Recognize PLWHA's perceptions about HIV/AIDS and Death. Articulate how HIV/AIDS is synonymously linked to death. Identify how perceiving HIV/AIDS as death affects PLWHA'ability to seek treatment and manage their status.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I wrote and analyzed the content of the abstract
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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