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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases