Socio-Cultural and Behavioral Aspects of Hiv/Aids Among Young Adults in Bahir Dar Town, Northwestern Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


This thesis is a study of the socio-cultural and behavioral aspects of HIV/AIDS among young adults (in the age-bracket 20-29) in Kebele 4 Administration of Bahir Dar, Northwestern Ethiopia. The objectives are to: (i) investigate socio-cultural meanings of and conceptions about AIDS among young adults; (ii) study the socio-cultural context of AIDS and its impact on sexual activity among young adults, including the gendered aspects of attitudes and behavior regarding sex and HIV risk; and (iii) examine young adults' beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, practice and behavior towards PLWHA's, and PLWHAs' experiences in the community and the health care system. The study is based on 100 days of fieldwork, which included participant observation, interviews and discussions with local officials, and young informants, a focus group discussion, and case studies of 15 young adults (7 males and 8 females), and 3 PLWHA cases (1 female and 2 males).The thesis first describes the daily lives of young adults in Bahir Dar as a basis for understanding the social context for youth behavior and attitudes. This discussion shows that many youth live in a context of poverty, unemployment, high drug and alcohol abuse, male dominance and female submissiveness, and vulnerability. It is within such a context of vulnerability youth construct their understanding of HIV/AIDS. They generally have an adequate understanding of the nature of HIV and its modes of transmission, but the use of youth narratives reveals youth conceptions of HIV/AIDS incorporate a broader set of dimensions including moral, social and behavioral/individualized notions. For the youth, AIDS is commonly conceived as a symbol of moral failing and a form of God's justice. AIDS also represents certain social categories, social problems, gender inequality, and a mechanism of social control. In addition, AIDS is co-nceived in terms of its social function in the society. Alternatively, AIDS is also associated with individual characteristics and outcomes such as self-destructive behavior, a self-inflicted random occurrence, a romantic/desirable form of death, as well as with sexuality. The thesis also gives substantial attention to youth sexuality because it is strongly intertwined with the reality of HIV/AIDS in terms of youth conceptions, mode of transmission, and changes in sexuality in response to the epidemic. Youth sexuality is a function of sexual attitudes, social significance of sex, risk perception and risk-prone behavioral and social contexts.People living with HIV/AIDS are an important aspect of the significance of HIV/AIDS in the lives of the youth. The thesis therefore discusses the psychological and social status of PLWHA's, the care and treatment available to them, and their self-help efforts. PLWHAs' reactions to their HIV-positive status ranges from emotional reactions such as shock and confusion, resort to begging, moral judgements about their past behavior, self-blame, and feelings of experiencing retribution, lack of desire to discuss one's concerns about AIDS with anyone except concerned people. The social status of PLWHA's is characterized by stigma but also acceptance by some. Institutional care provided to PLWHA's consists of considerate treatments by certain medical professionals on the one hand, and social biases by others on the other due to lack of awareness and belittling attitudes on the part of some workers. The family and, especially women, are a primary source of care for PLWHA's, but moral judgements on the part of caregivers and attempts to control information flow about PLWHAs' status may affect the level of care provided. Self-help Association of PLWHA's is accessible to PLWHA's, but is weakened by resource shortages



Social Anthropology