Reducing HIV and AIDS stigma among university students in South Africa

Open Access
Brown, Darigg Collis
Graduate Program:
Biobehavioral Health
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 15, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Collins O Airhihenbuwa, Dissertation Advisor
  • Collins O Airhihenbuwa, Committee Chair
  • Rhonda Belue, Committee Member
  • Gary King, Committee Member
  • Edward A Smith, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • HIV and AIDS
  • stigma
  • race
  • South Africa
The spread of HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic proportions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa has the highest prevalence (10.8%) of persons living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHA) in the world. Black and Coloured South Africans make up the overwhelming majority of current HIV and AIDS cases. Young people ages 15-24 have the highest infections rates. HIV/AIDS-related stigma is a negative factor that hinders efforts to eradicate HIV, thus increasing the morbidity and mortality burden in a country where social, political, and economic disparities still exist. These factors collectively, continue to drive the glaring disparities in HIV/AIDS health status in South Africa. There is a need to better understand the social contexts of HIV/AIDS-related stigma because it is a barrier to receiving effective treatment, care, and support. While young people in South Africa are experiencing the greatest risk in spreading HIV, stigma among university students – particularly those ages 18-24 – has been understudied. This study focused on reducing stigmatizing attitudes among Black and Coloured university students in two traditionally underserved universities – University of the Western Cape (UWC) and University of Limpopo (UL). A pre- and post-test questionnaire was used to examine differences in attitudes and perceptions contributing to stigma among a treatment and control group of students. The questionnaire was divided into six attitudinal domains and administered in a classroom setting. The treatment group underwent a series of educational intervention components between the two measurements. Analysis of Variance and linear regression statistical procedures were used to assess differences in stigmatizing attitudes among the students. This study can be useful in determining where the focus of future programmatic interventions among university students should be. The results will be used to guide the development of interventions and educational strategies to reduce HIV/AIDS-related stigma.