This study qualitatively explores HIV-related gossip as both a manifestation and driver of HIV-related stigma, which is a known barrier to HIV testing and treatment in Botswana. Data were elicited from 5 focus group discussions and 46 semi-structured in-depth interviews with individuals living with HIV and community members with undisclosed serostatus in Gaborone, Botswana in 2017 (n = 84). Directed content analysis using the ‘What Matters Most’ theoretical framework identified culturally salient manifestations of HIV-related stigma; simultaneous use of Modified Labeling Theory allowed interpretation and stepwise organization of how the social phenomenon of gossip leads to adverse HIV outcomes. Results indicated that HIV-related gossip can diminish community standing through culturally influenced mechanisms, in turn precipitating poor psychosocial well-being and worsened HIV-related outcomes. These harms may be offset by protective factors, such as appearing healthy, accepting one’s HIV status, and community education about the harms of gossip.
“It’s better if I die because even in the hospital, there is a stigma, people still gossip”: Gossip as a culturally shaped labeling process and its implications for HIV-related stigma in Botswana
AIDS and Behavior, 27 (8), 2535-2547. doi: 10.1007/s10461-023-03980-x. PMCID: PMC10350478.