Religious Affiliation, Ethnicity, and AIDS-Related Discrimination in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mark Regnerus, University of Texas at Austin
Viviana Salinas, University of Texas at Austin

Considerable stigma and discrimination is attached to HIV/AIDS in various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in spite of high prevalence rates. Some of the blame for perpetuating such discrimination continues to fall upon organized religion, which occupies a central part in many Africans’ lives and tends to advocate sexual conservatism. However, little evidence exists to support the suggestion that religious ideologies breed discrimination and stigma about HIV/AIDS. Drawing upon Demographic and Health Survey data from seven sub-Saharan countries with acute health crises, we evaluate the effect of religious affiliation on different forms of AIDS discrimination, paying close attention to possible confounding effects of tribe or ethnicity. In most analyses, religious affiliation is unrelated to discrimination after accounting for ethnicity – a key predictor of discrimination. Where affiliation remains significant, Muslims and people who practice other non-Christian religious traditions tend to report more discriminatory habits.

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Presented in Session 101: Religion, Ethnicity and Reproductive Health