Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Exploring Religiosity and Spirituality on the Meaning of HIV/AIDS and Service Provision in Malawi
by Choi, Sung Ah, Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2018, 116; 10810586
Abstract (Summary)

Background: Almost two-thirds of the total HIV/AIDS infected populations in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS stigmas are major obstacles to HIV/AIDS interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa. The literature suggests that diverse factors associated with HIV/AIDS stigma should be investigated to effectively reduce HIV/AIDS stigmas. However, little is known about religion as a cultural factor in the construction of HIV/AIDS stigma in Sub-Saharan Africa. NGOs and FBOs have played a significant role in the work of the HIV/AIDS intervention and prevention in the area. However, in spite of the importance of religion and spirituality among the front-line workers at non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based organizations (FBOs) in Sub-Saharan Africa, religiosity, and spirituality in relation to the construction of HIV/AIDS stigma have not been fully investigated yet.

Purpose: The aims of this study were to explore how service providers working with HIV/AIDS affected populations understand the meaning of HIV/AIDS stigma in relation to their religious beliefs, and to explore the role of religiosity and spirituality among service providers working in NGOs and FBOs in southern Malawi.

Method: A qualitative approach using the Internet via online Google forms and emails was used to collect the questionnaires and narrative data from Malawi. Study participants included twenty service providers working in thirteen NGOs or FBOs in southern Malawi. Fourteen participants were Malawians; six were from abroad, including Australia, Canada, Dutch, South Korea, Zimbabwe, and England. All participants are self-identified Christians. The qualitative data was analyzed using ATLAS.ti (version 8.0), and the quantitative data were analyzed by STATA (version 14.2).

Results: The findings of the study showed that social stigma and social constructionism were theories relevant to exploring HIV/AIDS stigma as a social construct in the Sub-Saharan context. Service providers participating in the study variously understood HIV/AIDS as a punishment of God, a consequence of sin in the fallen world, a result of human behavior, an opportunity to help PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS), and as a medical disease. The participants described religiosity and spirituality as important health assets that support them in working with PLWHA in NGOs and FBOs in Malawi.

Conclusion: Religion serves as an important cultural influence, with power to both negatively affect the construction of HIV/AIDS stigma in society, and positively reconstruct the meaning of HIV/AIDS. The findings of the study suggest that it is critical to deconstruct and reconstruct the meaning of HIV/AIDS by focusing on religion as the means of grace and love, not of morality. Service providers must be required to carefully examine their own prejudice toward PLWHA, and social work education can equip HIV/AIDS specialists to more effectively deal with HIV/AIDS-related problems at the local, national, and global levels in the field of international social work.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Choi, Sung Ah
Commitee: Erb, Leonard P., Hastings, Julia F., Ramos, Blanca M.
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Social Welfare
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Social work, Sub Saharan Africa Studies
Keywords: HIV/AIDS stigma, International social work, NGO and FBO, Religiosity, Spirituality, Sub-Saharan Africa
Publication Number: 10810586
ISBN: 9780355926835
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