Traditional beliefs about the cause of AIDS and AIDS-related stigma in South Africa

AIDS Care. 2004 Jul;16(5):572-80. doi: 10.1080/09540120410001716360.


AIDS-related stigmas are pervasive in some segments of South African society and stigmas can impede efforts to promote voluntary counselling and testing and other HIV-AIDS prevention efforts. The current study examined associations among the belief that AIDS is caused by spirits and supernatural forces, AIDS-related knowledge and AIDS-related stigmas. A street intercept survey with 487 men and women living in a Black township in Cape Town, South Africa showed that 11% (n=54) believed that AIDS is caused by spirits and supernatural forces, 21% (n=105) were unsure if AIDS is caused by spirits and the supernatural, and 68% (n=355) did not believe that AIDS is caused by spirits and supernatural forces. Multiple logistic regression analyses controlling for participant age, gender, years of education and survey venue showed that people who believed HIV-AIDS is caused by spirits and the supernatural demonstrated significantly more misinformation about AIDS and were significantly more likely to endorse repulsion and social sanction stigmatizing beliefs against people living with HIV-AIDS. However, nearly all associations between beliefs that AIDS is caused by spirits and AIDS stigmas were non-significant when logistic regressions were repeated with AIDS-related knowledge included as a control variable. This finding suggests that relationships between traditional beliefs about the cause of HIV-AIDS and AIDS stigmas are mediated by AIDS-related knowledge. AIDS education efforts are urgently needed to reach people who hold traditional beliefs about AIDS to remedy AIDS stigmas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black People
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • South Africa
  • Stereotyping
  • Superstitions*