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Ethnographic experiences of HIV-positive nurses in managing stigma at a clinic in rural Uganda

Margaret Kyakuwa


This paper explores the workplace experiences of HIV-positive nurses and their attempts to manage HIV/AIDS stigma. An HIV diagnosis can have a major impact on an individual’s psychological and emotional wellbeing. Moreover, caring for those suffering from chronic HIV-related illnesses comes with additional stress, which makes providing care more complex. Stigma-reduction and assisting with psychosocial support and wellbeing is an integral part of ensuring that care providers who are HIV-positive have good outcomes both for themselves and their patients. An ethnographic study with HIV-positive nurses was conducted from August 2005 to December 2007 at a Health Centre IV HIV clinic in rural Luweero district, Uganda. Data were gathered through clinical participant observation, informal conversations, recorded life histories, open-ended in-depth interviews and topical focus group discussions. Nurses are in a position to help people through negative life events, yet they may personally experience the same types of negative life events. In the absence of a system to provide support for HIV and AIDS clinical care providers, a group of HIV-positive nurses initiated a support process by creating safe spaces for interacting and seeking psychosocial support among themselves in a relatively secretive way. This process provided the nurses with a solid foundation for developing interventions to assist them through difficult times.

Keywords: disclosure, ethnography, healthcare professionals, occupational health, perceived stigma, psychosocial support, qualitative research, sub-Saharan Africa

African Journal of AIDS Research 2009, 8(3): 367–378

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eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445