Religiouis beliefs and HIV in Akan Society
Researcher: Perpetual Crentsil
HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is sustained through a complex interaction of social and cultural processes. The epidemic is still a major threat in African societies and affects various aspects of the social structure within social, economic and political spheres. Ranging from public health policies, state interventions, migration, poverty and sexual behaviour to gender relations and inequalities like women’s lack of rights and access to resources and the inability to negotiate safe sex HIV/AIDS is hugely affected by environmental factors and state politics, and is central to women’s bodily experience and social relations. Recent scholarship has identified religion as a possible factor in the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, examining people’s religious affiliation (Christianity or Islam) and their exposure to HIV/AIDS-related prevention messages, knowledge and perceptions of risks and protective attitudes.
This study concentrates on the role of religion in HIV/AIDS initiatives, the ecological interdependence of humans, land, beliefs and medical resources, and the way in which such relations are embedded in systems of value among the matrilineal Akan ethnic group of Ghana. This will be a comprehensive study of various religions and HIV/AIDS aetiological explanations, prevention and therapies on multiple levels and methods of analysis in the total social system. How does religious affiliation affect infection risks (with a particular emphasis on Islam compared with Christianity and traditional beliefs)? What is the role of gender relations in all this?
In terms of theory, the objective is to open new dialogues on the social-ecology standpoint, which looks at a disease/illness as a social problem and from multiple levels, applies diverse theoretical standpoints, and recognises human-environment interactions as dynamic processes. The overall theoretical aim of the project is to develop the social-ecological perspective to further understand how religious beliefs affect AIDS explanations, search for therapy (within plural medical sources—traditional and frail biomedical/hospital services), HIV risks, stigmatization, and may help in prevention strategies. The study wishes to contribute to the research fields of (medical) anthropology, gender and health, religion and medicine, public health (in Africa), feminist theory, and African Studies.