Narratives and Silences in Discussions of
AIDS/HIV Amongst Young People in Mpumalanga,
Irish Journal of Anthropology, 7.
This paper centres on discussions surrounding people living with HIV and
AIDS in Mpumalanga province of South Africa and challenges an accepted
hypothesis that a Euro-American understanding of stigma is the main reason
for the silence surrounding HIV and AIDS. Through the example of Sipho’s
silence above, and narratives of various participants, I examine the choices
available to this community in the face of the calamity that is a provincial HIV
infection rate of 27.3%3 and the silences that often accompany a diagnosis of
HIV/AIDS. I begin by identifying alternative, although not necessarily
mutually exclusive, cultural mechanisms, which are in place in Mpumalanga.
I look at the role of stigma, whether “felt” or “enacted” (Scambler & Hopkins,
1986) and the internalisation and reproduction of external public criticisms
(Goffman 1986). While some stigma does exist, it is important to emphasise
that in each model identified, silence plays a major role in the strategy of a
people working to protect, restructure, and re-affirm their community. This
paper, then, is my attempt to understand each of these mechanisms and
reconcile some of those divergent views and discordant voices.
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