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

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 8, issue 3, 2009 , pages: 367–378
DOI: 10.2989/AJAR.2009.
Author(s): Margaret KyakuwaAmsterdam School for Social Science Research, The Netherlands


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.

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