"The silent sepulchral effects of stigma" : a study of the effects of HIV and AIDS-related stigma on the learners at Ndweni Primary school and its surrounding community situated in the North Durban area in Kwazulu-Natal.
The effects of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV and AIDS)-related stigma in Ndweni preclude learning and the humane treatment of people living with HIV or AIDS (PL WHA). This is because stigma contributes to the isolation, marginalization and vulnerability, all of which do more harm than good to people infected and affected. Countering HIV and AIDS-related stigma implies addressing, among other things, the private contexts within which it occurs. While redress mechanisms may have effected systematic change, HIV prevention and AIDS-related education would interrupt the cycles of ignorance, prejudice, violence and sexism that exist at both school and community levels. This study of the Ndweni Primary School and the surrounding community focuses on the HIV and AIDS-related stigma and its effect on learners. The findings reveal that HIV prevention and AIDS-related education is being marginalized by both educators at Ndweni Primary and members of the community. Although the learners gained some knowledge from occasional interaction with personnel from Ndweni Child Welfare, Ndweni Clinic, and volunteers, they retained most of their parents' views on HIV and AIDS. Within Ndweni Community, people do talk about the epidemic, but this is always in secret hushed tones and indirectly to PL WHA, waiting for them to 'break the silence' and disclose their status. The findings reveal, furthermore, the interconnectedness between poverty, prejudice and ignorance, violence and gender politics to the HIV and AIDS stigma. I used social justice theories of oppression by Freire (1970), Hardiman and lackson (1970) and others that focus directly on marginalization of PL WHA as well as of HIV and AIDS information. My recommendations include research into foster care birth documentation for placement of orphans within the education system and a merging of both educational and social institutions to keep a documented track of children who get lost once they transfer from schools or relocate to other areas. This thesis can be regarded as a step forward in the empowering process of creating knowledge and an understanding of HIV prevention and AIDS- related education at both the school and community levels, not only in Ndweni, but for all communities like Ndweni.