The application of Paolo Freire's pedagogy in renegotiating HIV stigmatised identities : a study of DramAidE's Health Promotion Project (HPP) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT).
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Diagnosis with HIV disease is associated with a negative life event which impacts on health, longevity, reproduction and sexuality. Given the impact of disease stigma on prevailing constructions of masculinity and femininity, gender expectations are found to play an increasingly important role in prevention. In contexts in which increasingly more young people are living with HIV there is a need for appropriate sex-education, support for dealing with sexuality and self-identity with HIV. This calls for a prevention approach that gives a voice to those who have previously been marginalised and necessitates a move away from prevention approaches that are didactic and use top-down shifts in policy and regulation as a means of encouraging risk reduction. This study explores DramAidE’s Health Promotion project which locates young people who live openly with HIV in the centre of an HIV/AIDS mitigation project so that they can provide leadership and engage campus communities in HIV/AIDS related activities and events. Unlike most higher education stigma reduction efforts which draw on a model of "liberal enlightenment" in which communications experts design projects with the intention of correcting inappropriate thoughts and actions, this project avoids, what Paulo Freire (1972a) calls a ‘banking’ approach to health (Maluwa, Aggleton, and Parker, 2002). Participatory action research is associated with democratic struggles and is used in this dissertation to encourage resistance to stigmatising attitudes which are encoded within current prevention approaches. The findings suggest that peers exposed to the Health Promotion project engage with gender and prevention issues in a highly critical way. Peers living and affected by HIV have developed a context specific set of norms which encourage testing. An innovative approach to prevention has been adopted in which peer leaders living with HIV provide an alternative model of care and support which is community supported.