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This article is taken from the April 2003 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

HIV/AIDS & discrimination

HIV/AIDS & discrimination imageAccording to the 12th National HIV and Syphilis Sero-prevalence survey of women attending public antenatal clinics in South Africa, an estimated 4.74 million South Africans had HIV by the end of 2001. Every day people living with HIV/AIDS face a variety of problems because of discrimination. The Department of Health has recognised that fear of discrimination is a significant obstacle to persons coming forward for counselling, testing, support and treatment.

Noting the lack of data around the nature and extent of HIV/AIDS discrimination, the Department commissioned Strategy & Tactics (S&T), in partnership with the AIDS Law Project of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, to conduct baseline research on HIV/AIDS discrimination in South Africa.
The objectives of the research were to:

  • profile the nature & extent of discrimination;
  • examine the impact of discrimination, particularly on health-seeking behaviour;
  • highlight obstacles to creating a conducive climate for disclosure of HIV-status;
  • develop a draft strategy to counter discrimination.

Using multiple methods – a literature review, focus groups and a random household survey – the focus of the research was on the social and communal aspects of discrimination found in every day life. Information from the literature and focus groups led to the development of the following model for understanding discrimination, which was then assessed using the survey data:

The data showed that low levels of fear, deviance and ignorance all contributed to lower levels of discrimination. However, the influence that these factors had on the levels of discrimination was not equal. The data highlighted that the area of ignorance must be at the heart of any strategy to counter discrimination.

Any strategy emanating from the Department of Health needs to take cognisance of, and be informed by, the existing legislative and policy environment in South Africa. In addition, a strategy for countering discrimination needs to be informed by existing, relevant programmes and initiatives. In essence there are two key components (which may not be mutually exclusive) of any response aimed at countering discrimination:

  • A legal and human rights response - which deals with legislative review/reform, increased awareness of rights and increased access to legal remedies for those affected by discrimination.
  • A broader programmatic response - deals with knowledge of HIV/AIDS, community perceptions/ awareness, access to health care and so on.
 

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