Stigma as ‘othering’ among Christian theology students in South Africa

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9 Citations (Scopus)


HIV is a health and developmental crisis that has profoundly challenged the Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa. Responding to stigma and prejudice against HIV and people living with HIV and AIDS has been a major concern of theologians and Christian leaders. However, Christians themselves and the church as a community are equally prone to stigma and prejudice. The author contends that this stigma is grounded in the dynamic of ‘othering’, which, among Christians, takes on religious or theological overtones. Drawing on qualitative data from theology students in South Africa, the paper assembles a model of AIDS stigma as othering. The central story or axis of the model is the dynamic of othering, comprising three themes, viz. lack of empathic contact, disconnection, and distancing. There are three main dynamics that appear to contribute to or feed into othering, viz. emotions related to sexuality and HIV, theology of health and judgement, and contextualised knowledge of HIV. Finally, the model presents two primary results of othering, viz. disengagement from HIV through passivity and hopelessness, and prejudice against those living with HIV. The paper endeavours to reveal the possible biblical roots of AIDS stigma. Through this, the deep violence embedded in such stigma is exposed and contrasted with a theology of inclusiveness and engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-191
Number of pages11
JournalSahara J
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012


  • Christian
  • Clergy
  • Faith-based
  • HIV
  • Othering
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health (social science)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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