Antenatal sero-prevalence rates of 30% and more have been reported in KwaZulu-Natal since 1998 and over 50% of all adult deaths in 2000 were due to AIDS. Understanding the changing social and cultural attitudes to AIDS is important in providing contextual information to aid the design of interventions. This paper examines community attitudes towards individuals living with HIV. Eleven focus groups were conducted with men and women. Participants were asked to discuss how people living with HIV were treated within the family and community. The discussions were recorded and transcribed in isiZulu and then translated into English. These were coded using Nud*ist 6 software to identify key themes and sub-themes using content analysis. Gender and area differences were investigated. Generally participants expressed positive attitudes to the treatment of AIDS patients and felt that people living with HIV were being cared for within families. However, they reported more negative attitudes to those living with HIV by the general community and suggested these attitudes and acts of discrimination influenced disclosure. Discrimination included physical isolation and symbolism such as referring to them using a 'three finger' gesture. Participants also reported mixed responses to known HIV-positive individuals, ranging from sympathy to a lack of care, on the grounds that the person is certain to die. There are gender differences in terms of the attitudes towards people living with HIV. Compassion and hopelessness seem to be more common among women than men.
AIDS Care (2007) 19 (1) pp. 92-101 [DOI: 10.1080/09540120600888378].