Christian identity and men’s attitudes to antiretroviral therapy in Zambia

  • Anthony Simpson


Increasing access to antiretroviral therapy (ART), especially in urban areas in Zambia, has transformed the landscape of the HIV epidemic to include hope. Drawing upon long-term ethnographic research, this article briefly describes the religious ideas of a cohort of former students of a Catholic mission boarding school for boys. The discussion outlines their understanding of masculinity and charts their responses, first to voluntary counselling and testing for HIV, and, more recently, to the ‘miraculous’ returns to health they have experienced or witnessed as a result of ART. The article examines the problems of self-disclosure among self-identified Catholics who are aware of their HIV-positive status and their reluctance to publically acknowledge that they are receiving ART. The research locates the source of this reluctance within existing associations of Christianity with ‘civilisation’ and ‘respectability.’ The article concludes that the Catholic Church in Zambia needs to do more to combat negative responses to people living with HIV, which cause both shame and loss of respect and militate against Zambians coming forward to access ART as well as against good antiretroviral adherence. One way in which this might be achieved is for the Catholic Church to be more open about priests and other members of the religious community who are receiving ART.

Keywords: Africa, Catholic Church, disclosure, ethnography, masculinity, mission education, people living with HIV, religion, stigma

African Journal of AIDS Research 2010, 9(4): 397–405

Author Biography

Anthony Simpson
University of Manchester, School of Social Sciences, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445