AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1204–1219 | Cite as

Creating Social Spaces to Tackle AIDS-Related Stigma: Reviewing the Role of Church Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • C. Campbell
  • M. Skovdal
  • A. Gibbs
Original Paper


An expanding body of literature explores the role of African church groups in facilitating or hindering the support of people living with AIDS and challenging or contributing to HIV/AIDS-related stigma. Treating church groups as social spaces in which HIV/AIDS-related stigma may potentially be challenged, we systematically review this literature, identifying five themes that highlight the complex and contradictory role of the church as a potential agent of health-enhancing social change. In many ways the church perpetuates HIV/AIDS-related stigma through (i) moralistic attitudes and (ii) its reinforcement of conservative gender ideologies. However some churches have managed move towards action that makes a more positive contribution to HIV/AIDS management through (iii) promoting various forms of social control for HIV prevention, (iv) contributing to the care and support of the AIDS-affected and (v) providing social spaces for challenging stigmatising ideas and practices. We conclude that church groups, including church leadership, can play a key role in facilitating or hindering the creation of supportive social spaces to challenge stigma. Much work remains to be done in developing deeper understandings of the multi-layered factors that enable some churches, but not others, to respond effectively to HIV/AIDS.


Community responses Church groups Religion Stigma AIDS Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social PsychologyLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK
  2. 2.Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD)University of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa

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