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Orphans in South Africa and the Stigma of HIV/AIDS

By Samantha Haas

From the author:

During the summer of 2011, I had the valuable opportunity to travel to South Africa after a semester long preparation course. During the semester, the class had learned about the history, culture, and politics, but concentrated most on the intricacies of the HIV/AIDS virus in South Africa. We were given the semester to develop a specific focus that we hoped to research further during our trip, through meetings with different NGO's and experts. I chose to examine the lives of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. When we arrived in Capetown and began to meet with various organizations and it became clear that the most significant factor preventing the normalization of the disease was the overwhelming stigma and taboo surrounding it, In my research paper, I chose to focus specifically on orphans because of their vulnerability, which leads them to internalize the discrimination they face and blame themselves, therefore perpetuating the stigmatization. I learned that changing these ingrained attitudes must start with individual empowerment, which could then manifest in communities.
 

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