A study on HIV related stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS in Katete District
Chipungu, Makanta A.
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As we enter the third decade of the AIDS pandemic the temptation is great to assume that the epidemic of stigma has ended. Most countries have introduced legislation protecting People Living With HIV/AIDS [PLWHA] against discriminations. Educational messages have been delivered and knowledge base is high among people. Despite these developments, anecdotal evidence is showing that AIDS related stigma still persists. The objective of the study was to determine dimensions associated with HIV/AIDS related stigma experienced by PLWHA.A cross sectional study was carried out at St. Francis Hospital in Katete District. Sample selection was done randomly from the PLWHA attending the 'Sandie Logie's Clinic'. The sample size was 246. Inclusion criterion was all PLWHA aged 15 years and above. Data was collected using structured interview complimented by focus group discussions. Data was coded, open-ended questions were categorized and computer entry made. Data analysis was done by use of EPI INFO statistical package. Ethical clearance was sought from the Research Ethical Committee. Permission from relevant institutions was sought.The findings^ of the study showed that 64 [26%] of the respondents had not told anyone about their status due to fear of stigma, discrimination, being talked about and witch craft. Lack of disclosure allows for the continued denial of the spread of the disease and is the breeding ground for stigma, suspicion and violence. The study results showed that the HIV status was only revealed to a carer because of the need for support. Fear of stigma and discrimination limits the possibility of disclosure even to potential important sources of support such as family and friends.A large proportion 63.4% attributed causes of HIV/AIDS stigma to promiscuity and low morals and lack of education.The study further showed that 63 [25.6%] of respondents reported that PLWHA experienced stigma in many forms like people not wanting to shake hands with them, not wanting to share food, always in a hurry to move on and fearing to sit next to you. 34.1% of the respondents said they had lost their self-esteem and [24%] wished that they were dead because of the pain and outcome of HIV/AIDS.In conclusion, stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and discrimination against PLWHA is a major problem. People often avoid learning about or admitting to being infected with HIV because of the stigma attached to the disease and fear of discrimination. Such avoidance limits diffusion of knowledge about HIV/AIDS in the general population and increases the risk of transmission to loved ones and others. HIV/AIDS interventions should focus on provision of an enabling environment to increase acceptance of PLWHA as a normal part of any society through intensified advocacy, support at all levels and involvement of PLWHA and communities in programme design and implementation.
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