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Walking Corpses and Kindly Neighbours: Retrospective Accounts of AIDS Stigma in Western Uganda

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DOI: 10.4236/wja.2012.23023    3,041 Downloads   4,576 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Stigma has been of tremendous concern in the AIDS epidemic. In this paper we investigate reported experiences of stigma in western Uganda, as related by coresidents treatment partners (TPs) of people receiving treatment through a community-based treatment programme. A survey (n = 110) and open-ended interviews (n = 30) were used. We found that while stigma persists, it is balanced by kindness and sympathy expressed by relatives and neighbours. Stigma experiences involve isolation and gossip, rather than harassment or violence. We argue that the persistence of isolating behavior may be related to 1) practical concerns about avoiding requests for assistance coming from families of people with AIDS; and 2) the perception that people with AIDS are "walking corpses", in a liminal state between life and death. The perception of AIDS as a death sentence appears to be a stronger driver of stigma than perceptions of sexual misbehaviour or promiscuity in the acquisition of AIDS. We argue that treatment has the potential to reduce stigma because it permits a repeal of this perceived death sentence.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

A. Kaler, A. Alibhai, W. Kipp, T. Rubaale and J. Konde-Lule, "Walking Corpses and Kindly Neighbours: Retrospective Accounts of AIDS Stigma in Western Uganda," World Journal of AIDS, Vol. 2 No. 3, 2012, pp. 174-182. doi: 10.4236/wja.2012.23023.

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