n HTS : Theological Studies - Spiritual leaders’ experiences of a comprehensive HIV stigma reduction intervention - original research

Volume 74 Number 4
  • ISSN : 0259-9422
  • E-ISSN: 2072-8050



HIV is a deadly reality in South African communities, where people living with HIV (PLWH) do not only face physical sickness but also severe stigmatisation. Literature shows that spiritual leaders (religious leaders/traditional healers) can have a very meaningful role in the reduction of HIV stigma. This article reports on part of a comprehensive community-based HIV stigma reduction intervention with PLWH and people living close to them, which included partners, children, family members, friends, community members and spiritual leaders. The focus of this article is on the experiences of spiritual leaders during and after the HIV stigma reduction intervention. The research took place in both an urban and rural setting in the North-West Province of South Africa and data collection was done by means of in-depth interviews with the spiritual leaders. The interaction with PLWH during the intervention activated new experiences for spiritual leaders: acceptance and empathy for PLWH, an awareness of their own ignorance, a stronger realisation of God’s presence and a realisation that they could inspire hope in PLWH. A greater awareness was created of HIV and of the associated realities regarding disclosure and stigma. The inclusion of spiritual leaders as well as PLWH brought about a positive shift in the attitudes of communities through the increase of knowledge and understanding of HIV stigma. They saw themselves playing a much greater part in facilitating such a shift and in reducing HIV stigma in their own congregations and their communities at large.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error