The ambivalence of stigma and the double-edged sword of HIV/AIDS intervention in Burkina Faso

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Apr;74(7):1037-44. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.11.044. Epub 2012 Feb 6.


This article analyses the causes of HIV stigmatisation in Burkina Faso as perceived by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) and people working in AIDS-related Community Based Organisations (CBOs). Stigmatisation continues to be a pressing issue when dealing with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. The article is based on direct observation of HIV-related practices within 20 CBOs in Burkina Faso, as well as semi-structured interviews or focus group discussions with 72 PLHIV and 90 professionals and volunteers working in CBOs. PLHIV were chosen by convenience sampling among the persons who accessed CBO services and were interviewed about their life quality and experience relating to HIV. Professionals and volunteers were interviewed about their strategies, their achievements, and the problems they encountered. The research was conducted in the course of three months fieldwork between September and November 2009. Our principal findings show, firstly, that moral or social stigmatisation does not in any simple way derive from fear, ignorance or inaccurate beliefs but that it is also established and continually reinforced by official campaigns addressing HIV/AIDS. Secondly, we show that stigmatisation is a socially complex and ambiguous process. Based on these empirical findings we conclude that HIV/AIDS need no longer be approached in AIDS intervention as a sexually acquired and fatal disease. When reliable access to antiretroviral drugs is in place, AIDS becomes a chronic condition with which one can live for many years, and this makes it easier to address HIV and moral or social stigmatisation by downplaying the current focus upon sexuality and morality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology
  • Burkina Faso
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Morals
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Isolation
  • Truth Disclosure