The social construction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in South African communities

Qual Health Res. 2002 Dec;12(10):1373-90. doi: 10.1177/1049732302238749.


Since the medical link between sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS was established, there has been an increased focus on the spread of STIs in South Africa. The aim of this study was to provide an in-depth picture of the dynamics involved in sexuality and the spread of STIs and HIV/AIDS. The authors present the findings of a focus group study, which was a part of a larger, national project addressing the broad question of health-care seeking behavior for STIs. A discourse analysis carried out on 10 focus groups reveals complex and rich narratives on the way in which STIs are constructed in South African communities. The dominant discourses focused on the continuing stigmatization of STIs, causal explanations, and prevention strategies. The analysis raises important recommendations for both educational interventions and health services toward the challenge of halting the spread of STIs and HIV/AIDS.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Prejudice
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Isolation
  • South Africa / epidemiology