Managing HIV-positive sero-status in Ghana’s most HIV concentrated district: self-perceived explanations and theoretical discourse
As of December 2015 there were 37 million persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs), 70% of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana, which contributes a relatively small number to Africa’s HIV burden, has a generalised HIV epidemic. The current national prevalence is 1.47%. Agormanya, one of the HIV sentinel sites in the county and where this study was conducted, has current prevalence of 11.6%. This makes it critical to explore how persons infected with HIV manage their lives, especially in the midst of entrenched stigma and discrimination. However, available information on how PLWHAs in sub-Saharan Africa handle their day-to-day lives mostly dwell on food and nutrition. Thus, there is dearth of information on how PLWHAs in Ghana particularly handle the circumstances of their daily lives which are mostly coloured by their HIV-positive statuses, given their stigmatised identity. We explore how PLWHAs respond to the experiences and challenges of living with HIV/AIDS in Lower Manya Krobo, consistently most HIV-infected district in Ghana. Data were collected from 38 combined purposive and randomly selected HIV-positive persons in two leading hospitals (St Martins Depores Agormanya and Atua Government hospitals which provide specialised HIV care in the district. Using in-depth interviews, we studied how PLWHAs managed their routine livelihoods in the midst of extreme stigma. We combined the social capital and resilience theoretical frameworks to show that our respondents were mostly resilient and strategically mostly drew upon extended family social support to cope with their livelihood challenges. We recommend that community opinion leaders and other stakeholders sensitise community members in Lower Manya Krobo to better understand the mode of HIV infection and encourage/strengthen family and community cohesion and social support.
Keywords: livelihood management, Lower Manya Krobo district, persons living with HIV/AIDS, resilience, social capital, social support, stigma and discrimination