Psychological explanations in HIV/AIDS counselling

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This research investigated the extent to which explanations of the aetiology, course, treatment, and prognosis of Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are shared or differ between African health workers (counsellors) and their African clients who are affected. Medical anthropology and constructionist theory provided theoretical frameworks to explore the significance and meaning of explanations as well as implications for counselling objectives. A qualitative methodology, drawn from theoretical models which emphasize the cultural construction of explanations of disease, was used. Findings suggest that counsellors' explanations are medical and objective with passive notions of bodily processes, while clients' explanations reflect subjective, personal experiences with the condition attributed to active human agency, supernatural and natural powers. Both counsellors and clients use personal characteristics, social stereotypes and people's actions as determinants for infection. The findings suggest that clients use these to empower themselves in order to cope with the disease, while counsellors use them to assert their power both over clients and in the health care systems; and thus contribute to obstacles in counselling. Suggestions for addressing issues in HIV/AIDS counselling and recommendations for future research in this area are included.

Bibliography: leaves 75-77.