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HIV/AIDS issue more complex than often admitted

News: Jun 21, 2018

Increased knowledge and closer cooperation between hospitals and traditional healers could improve effectiveness in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Moçambique, a new thesis from the university of Gothenburg concludes.

Photo of Margarida PauloSocial anthropologist Margarida Paulo has conducted field studies for her thesis in Mafalala, an urban area of Maputo, since 2013. From the poor people’s narratives there, she has been able to paint a more nuanced picture of the HIV/AIDS issue than often is portrayed.
“The issue is complex and needs to be dealt with in a more elaborated manner”, Margarida Paulo says.

Primarily her results show that the knowledge amongst both poor people and NGOs and government bodies need to increase.
“NGOs and government bodies must get a deeper understanding of the poor people’s everyday life situation”, Margarida Paulo says, and takes as an example timing of testing.
“If people don’t show up for a test it is not necessarily because they reject to be tested. It might instead be that they urgently must spend their time looking for day labour.”

Likewise, she found prejudices amongst poor people against the efforts from NGOs and government, such as a suspicion that giving away condoms for free might be a way of trying to kill the poor.
“Their perception was that if something is given for free it must be of bad quality. So bad condoms could be a way to lure people into a feeling of security while in fact having them contract HIV/AIDS,” Margarida Paulo says.

Another field where improvements need to be done are on sensitising campaigns.
“There are a lot of them, but they often use a technical language that isn’t understood by the people they want to reach”, Margarida Paulo says. Everyone doesn’t speak Portuguese. And words like “virus” is not necessarily understood by all people.

Visiting a hospital with special entrances for patients with HIV/AIDS is stigmatising and a certain track towards social exclusion. Therefore, people hesitate to visit hospitals if they suspect they have contracted HIV. Rather they visit a traditional healer. A closer collaboration between healers and hospitals might [catch] patients in an earlier stage and give retroviral a better chance to work.

In a long-term perspective Margarida Paulo’s finding also show the importance of poverty reduction schemes in order to more efficiently combat HIV. Without proper skills many poor people must rely on day labour for their subsistence. Often that include sex work. Not knowing how to survive from day to day makes it hard for infected people to plan and hold on to a treatment.
“I don’t think the answer is just to hand out grants. But these people must be trained, so that they themselves can take control over their daily life”, Margarida Paulo says

Margarida Paulo, telephone: +258 822963470, e-mail: madoropau@gmail.com
Title of the thesis: Everyday struggles with HIV/AIDS in Mafalala, Maputo (Moçambique)
More about the thesis: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/56153

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