An investigation into employees' perceptions of HIV/AIDS stigma and their attitudes and behaviour towards HIV positive colleagues
Background:Stigma and discrimination continue to play significant roles in the maintenance and preservation of theHIV pandemic. It is well documented that people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) experience stigma and discrimination on an ongoing basis. This disrupts the fibre and functioning of communities and in particular the workplace community. It complicates prevention efforts and the treatment mechanisms of HIV. This research study investigated the perceptions of HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination of employees in the Office of the Premier (OTP) in the Northern Cape. The analysis of the research findings indicates that stigma and discrimination is prevalent in the working environment. Results illustrate employees concur on the existence of stigma and the resultant discriminatory practices. Consequently, attention is drawn away from the key issue about HIV/AIDS and emphasis is placed on the negative behavioural aspects that exist within the workplace.
Objectives: The objectives of this study were to assess employees' perceptions of and attitudes to HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination and to assess their attitudes to colleagues who are infected with HIV. It further aimed to assess employees' current behaviour towards colleagues and finally to recommend guidelines or strategies to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in the workplace.
Methods: The study used a mixed-method approach. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches were used. The quantitative approach entailed a survey while the qualitative approach used focus group discussions. Quantitative methods ensure high reliability of data gathered while qualitative methods give room to obtain more in-depth information about the phenomena under study.
Results: The data revealed that stigma and discrimination does prevail and continues to pose a threat to the efforts aimed at halting the spread of HIV. Stigma and discrimination instils fear among those that have not tested for HIV, and embed the belief that a positive test result would lead to the loss of friends and families and rejection in the workplace. This ultimately affects the rate at which employees may wish to test.
Conclusion: The research study highlights a range of issues relating to the broader context of stigma and discrimination in the workplace. It showed significant associations between HIV-related stigma and decreased use of voluntary counselling and testing services, reluctance to disclose HIV test results, and incorrect knowledge about transmission. The portfolio of work reveals the potential and importance of directly addressing stigma reduction in HIV programs.
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