Fear of stigmatization as barrier to voluntary HIV counselling and testing in South Africa

East Afr J Public Health. 2008 Aug;5(2):49-54.


Objective: The objective of this qualitative study was to identify psychosocial correlates of HIV voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), with an emphasis on the association between fear of AIDS-related stigma and willingness to have an HIV test.

Methods: The study was executed in Limpopo Province at University of Limpopo, Polokwane, South Africa. Focus group interviews were held among 72 students, divided over 10 groups.

Results: Results showed that participants had different levels of knowledge about HIV/AIDS and VCT, and that AIDS was still strongly associated with 'death'. Results further demonstrate that HIV/AIDS related stigma is still a very serious problem in South Africa. Lack of HIV/AIDS related knowledge, blaming persons with HIV/AIDS for their infection, and the life-threatening character of the disease were seen as the most important determinants of AIDS-related stigma. The main benefit to go for VCT was 'knowing your HIV status', whereas main barriers for testing were 'fear of being stigmatised' and 'fear of knowing your HIV positive status'.

Conclusion: Fear of stigmatization is an important barrier to HIV testing and has negative consequences for AIDS prevention and treatment. Interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma are needed in order to foster voluntary HIV counselling and testing in South Africa

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Directive Counseling*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prejudice*
  • Qualitative Research
  • South Africa