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Myths and Misconceptions

The South African AIDS epidemic has been shrouded in myth and plagued by misconception.

A recent study conducted by the HSRC suggests that between 2005 and 2008 there has been little change in people’s adherence to these myths. When asked to say whether the following statements were true or false, only 63.8% of South Africans interviewed could answer all four correctly:

  • HIV does not cause AIDS
  • Having sex with a virgin cures AIDS
  • There is a cure for AIDS
  • AIDS is caused by witchcraft

This is only a marginal improvement from 2005 when 61.6% of the respondents rejected all four of these myths correctly.

There are a number of explanations for South African’s adherence to these myths and misconceptions. They may be the result of conflict between traditional, cultural ideas of disease and Western notions of science and medicine, or could be traced back to the inequality fostered by the apartheid system. Or, in some cases it could be a result of simply “not knowing”.

In this section, Journ-AIDS examines the most common and pernicious myths and misconceptions about this disease and attempts to address these myths through providing relevant and reliable information. The discussion often goes beyond that to explore the causes of these misconceptions.

Wits Journalism Anova Health

The project is jointly managed by the Anova Health Institute and the Journalism and Media Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The project is funded by by the Health Communication Partnership based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Centre for Communication Programmes and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief through the United States Agency for International Development under terms of Award No. JH/HESA-02-05 and through the Anova Health Institute through PEPFAR via USAID under Award No. AID-674-A-12-00015.