Linking culture to HIV and Aids


By Sakhile Dube

According to Nqobile Ndzinisa, some people in KwaZulu Natal believe there is a cure for HIV-Aids but it is not made available to sufferers because manufacturers and related businesses are still making money from providing ARV (anti retro-viral) therapy.

Ngobile, who studying towards an MA at the University of KwaZulu Natal said that there were strong Zulu cultural beliefs that might explain why KwaZulu Natal province has the highest HIV prevalence in South Africa, and also why women have the highest rate of HIV infection compared to men.

Ndzinisa argued that women are more likely to be infected by HIV due to cultural reasons such as the cultural more of women submission to their men—although Ndzinisa acknowledged studies that indicate that women are not always passive participants in relationships.

However, the most devastating indictment of Ndzinisa’s research was the notion of certain Zulu cultural systems that appear to promote myths that contribute towards high rates of HIV among women. In her third research theme, Ndzinisa covered university students and their perceptions of HIV.

The research was about understanding how young modern Zulu students perceive their culture and use that perception to interpret information about HIV- Aids.

During the focus groups with students from KZN, Ndzinisa discovered that culture does not really influence how students understand HIV, but being exposed to education has given students conspiracy theories.

Apparently, students think that HIV-Aids is not a cultural problem but a moral one, Ndzinisa discovered. Cultural practices like the rites of passage amongst young Zulu women encourages them to abstain from sexual intercourse just as religion does. Ndzinisa argued that, “the rites of passage are there to serve a good purpose and they should be upheld and not applied selectively.”

  • Sakhile Dube was reporting for Open Source, the newspaper for Highway Africa 
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