Church-based social spaces and HIV/AIDS in rural South Africa.
Primarily, this dissertation examined the extent to which churches have potential in preventing HIV/AIDS. Set in rural KwaZulu-Natal an area marked with both high levels of HIV prevalence and high religious participation, the study used the concept of social space as a framework within which the contribution of churches towards the prevention of further spread of the HIV infection can be understood. Unlike recent studies which have consistently shown that the contribution of churches in the prevention of further spread of HIV infection is likely to emanate from the churches‘ teaching on morality, this study has argued that the contribution of churches in minimizing risky sexual behaviours is likely to emanate from how churches balance their teachings on moral issues and the subsequent practice of social control on the one hand and the provision of social support on the other. This is particularly so because in African settings where behaviour is largely influenced by the prevailing circumstances within society, and where churches are significantly entrenched in the lives of individuals providing a variety of social support services, there is a strong likelihood that churches will have an impact on their adherents‘ behaviour as well. The social space concept, therefore, defines churches not only as institutions enforcing the moral code which churches emphasise but also as caring and integrating forces, providing social support for their members in time of need. The study investigated four churches representing three Christian religious denominations: the Mainline, the Pentecostal and the African Independent churches. In investigating these churches, it used two types of data: The Africa Centre Demographic surveillance Systems (ACDIS) data collected between 2002 and 2004 and the Ethnographic data collected in 2006 consisting of a total of 96 in-depth interviews, 11-13 services of each church type selected, 6-8 church- related activities (or groups in each church), 3 informal discussions with community members and a set of 2 conversational data from each church. The analysis is done in two parts. The first part of the analysis (Chapter Five) focuses on the existing quantitative ACDIS data, examining whether there exists a relationship between church affiliation, participation in church activities and sexual behaviours. The second part uses ethnographic data in order to provide explanations of the observed relationship. Overall, the study found that unlike church affiliation which had no influence on individual sexual behaviour, individuals who participated regularly in church activities were less likely to engage in behaviour that would put them at risk of acquiring the HIV infection. The study found, however, that there existed denominational differences and that churches where participation was high were the same churches likely to influence protective behaviour. The explanation provided from qualitative findings suggested that the ability of these churches to minimise risky sexual behaviour was found in the Intensive Social Spaces that churches and their members constructed. The study concluded that the ability of churches to minimise risky sexual behaviours resulted from an individual negotiating losing the benefits provided by fellow members of the church when she/he ceases to be a member.