Patients and Personhood: Perceptions of HIV in Mozambican Immigrants in South Africa

Abstract

Foreign-born immigrants residing in South Africa largely come from sub-Saharan countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates worldwide. These migrants may manage HIV medically, despite precarious conditions, but little is known about how they manage socially in shifting cultural and clinical landscapes. In this article, I explore the complexities of stigma by juxtaposing perceptions of illness between HIV-positive Mozambican migrants in care and members of their communities unware of their own serostatus. I argue that stigma is tied to location through social networks. Sharp perceptual contrasts between patients and community members result in equally contrasting social positionalities and othering in sprawling migrant communities, where secrecy and gossip become strategies of social survival. Due to its social lethality, stigma continues to cause distress.

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