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Int Q Community Health Educ. 2007-2008;28(3):201-13. doi: 10.2190/IQ.28.3.c.

"My mother told me I must not cook anymore"--food, culture, and the context of HIV- and AIDS-related stigma in three communities in South Africa.

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  • 1Department of Health and Kinesiology, Purdue University, 800 West Stadium Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


The purpose of this study was to examine the role of food as an instrument in expressing and experiencing HIV/AIDS stigma by HIV-positive women and their families, with the goal of reducing discrimination. It goes beyond willingness to share utensils, which has been identified in HIV/AIDS research. As part of an ongoing capacity-building HIV/AIDS stigma project in South Africa, 25 focus groups and 15 key informant interviews were conducted among 195 women and 54 men in three Black communities. Participants were asked to discuss how they were treated in the family as women living with HIV and AIDS, and data was organized using the PEN-3 model. Findings highlight both the positive and negative experiences HIV-positive women encounter. Women would not disclose their HIV status to avoid being isolated from participating in the socio-cultural aspects of food preparation, while others that have disclosed their status have experienced alienation. The symbolic meanings of food should be a major consideration when addressing the elimination of HIV/AIDS stigma in South Africa.

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