HIV stigma: an exploration of how songs with HIV thems are perceived by Zimbabwean nationals living in Johannesburg , South Africa
Background: Despite music being part of everyday living in most African countries, limited research exists on how popular music has been used in public health interventions and its effectiveness in addressing public health issues such as stigma and discrimination among people living with HIV. This study used two Zimbabwean songs about HIV to compare musicians’ intended messages to audience perceptions on the portrayal of people living with HIV. Methods: This qualitative study consisted of 20 interviews with Zimbabweans in South Africa and two key informant interviews with the musicians. Inductive thematic analysis was conducted using MAXQDA. Results: Popular music can possess many edutainment qualities, but some key distinctions to a typical edutainment programme were noted in the study. Unlike other forms of edutainment that rely on characters to model required behaviour; in songs, musicians took on that role as storytellers. Despite the differences, listeners perceived the educational message within the songs. Phrases and images used by musicians had different meanings among research participants. Sometimes these deviated from the musicians’ intended messages, often reinforcing stigma and discrimination among participants. Some participants thought the songs emphasized identification of victim and perpetrator as well as stereotyping the physical appearance of PLHIV. Others felt PLHIV would feel judged if they listened to one of the songs. The songs reinforced gendered notions of HIV transmission. Context, time and setting could create different perceptions to the same or different listeners listening to the same song. Conclusions: This study highlights how music can promote either the inclusion or othering of PLHIV. By appreciating how audiences perceive music, unintended messages can be minimised, harnessing a widespread art form as a channel for health communication. The research provides an impetus for future interdisciplinary research involving musicologist, SBBC practitioners, and the artists to explore how best methods to of harnessing the art in public health interventions.
Research Report submitted to the School of Public Health University of Witwatersrand In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Public Health 23 October 2015