Original Research - Special Collection: Ignatius van Wyk Dedication

Spiritual leaders’ experiences of a comprehensive HIV stigma reduction intervention

Germari Kruger, Minrie Greeff, Rantoa Letšosa
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 4 | a4875 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i4.4875 | © 2018 Germari Kruger, Minrie Greeff, Rantoa Letšosa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 November 2017 | Published: 26 July 2018

About the author(s)

Germari Kruger, Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR), North-West University, South Africa
Minrie Greeff, Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR), North-West University, South Africa
Rantoa Letšosa, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, South Africa

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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.


HIV stigma; HIV stigma reduction intervention; religious leaders; spiritual leaders; South Africa; traditional healers


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