By: Weam Banjar; BDS., MSc. Clinical Research

Behind the bars of the Babylonian-wall mentality, conservative community exercised increased resistance toward AIDS awareness campaign. Fearing social taboo restrained health educators from disseminating information and public from seeking appropriate knowledge [1].  Prevention rather intervention is the primary goal for health educators. Health education and awareness campaigns are channels to disseminate appropriate knowledge among the public. The level of public awareness among members of conservative communities with respect to AIDS and HIV infection is below satisfactory [2,3]. The challenge in designing a sustainable AIDS education and awareness campaign is linked to the level of understanding the conservative mentality and ability to access high risk groups [2].

High risk groups are often socially rejected either due to their sexual inclination/ practices and/ or drug abuse [4]. Conservative mentality is often tied by traditions that consider publically discussing sex-related issue a taboo. Understanding the motive of conservative mentality is the first step toward establishing a community-based awareness campaign. Any proposed campaign should not only promote health awareness but also respect the social foundation. Conservative communities often link HIV infection and AIDS to sexual practices beyond the boundaries of marriage or homosexual activities. Both are not socially welcomed. Religious leaders had played a major role in promoting misconception that the only route of HIV transmission is sexual contact. Because conservative communities tend to be religiously inclined, collaboration between health educators and religious scholars is important to gain social acceptance.

Access to high-risk group in conservative communities is not easy. Homosexuals may face death penalty if publically demonstrated their sexual inclination. Prostitution and sexual activities beyond the marriage boundaries is legally as well as socially inacceptable and if convicted might be sentenced to death or lashing. Similarity, drug abusers and dealers are facing death penalty, lashing and prison service [5].  Members of conservative communities tend to deny any homosexual or prostitution activities within the society. They usually claim that drug abuse levels are very low. Resources on incidence and prevalence of AIDS in conservative communities are limited and difficult to be accessed [6,7,8].

The first step to organize effective campaign is to understand the mentality of the society and organize the campaign accordingly; health education to high risk groups might be achieved indirectly via targeted campaigns that utilize social media to promote awareness.

References:

  1. Rutledge SE, Whyte J, Abell N, Brown KM, Cesnales NI. Measuring stigma among health care and social service providers: the HIV/AIDS provider stigma inventory. AIDS Patient care and STD.2011; 25(11):673-81

  2. Daftary A. HIV and tuberculosis: the construction and management of double stigma. Social science and medicine. 2012;74:1512-19

  3. Goffman E. Stigma: notes on the management of spoiled identity. USA: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1963

  4. Collins PY, Von Unger H, Ambriester A. Church ladies, good girls, and locas: stigma and the intersection of gender, ethnicity, mental illness, and sexuality in relation to HIV risk. . Social science and medicine. 2008;67:389-97

  5. Kowalewski MR. Double stigma and boundary maintenance: how gay men deal with AIDS. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 1988;17:211-228

  6. Campell C, Foulis CA, Mainmane S, Sibiya Z. “I have an evil child at my house”: stigma and HIV/AIDS management in a South African community. American Journal of Public Health. 2005;95:808-15

  7. Joffe H. The relationship between representationalist and materialist perspectives: AIDS and ‘the other’. In L. Yardely (Ed.), Material discourses of health illness. 1997. London: Routledge.

  8. Petros G, Airhihenbuwa CO, Simbya L, Ramlagan S, Brown B. HIV/AIDS and ‘othering’ in South Africa: the blame goes on. Culture, Health, and Sexuality. 2006;8:67-77
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