Namibian Lecturer Dr Penehafo Angula graduated with a PhD in Nursing after developing, implementing and evaluating a community-based HIV/AIDS stigma reduction intervention in a Namibian rural community.

Namibia has been badly affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with infected and affected persons experiencing stigma at different levels.

Angula’s research has made a significant step towards addressing this issue by developing baseline guidelines and training manuals for HIV/AIDS stigma reduction in the Namibian context. She used a quasi-experimental non-equivalent control group pre-and post-test sample plan, with a focus on people living with HIV/AIDS, their families, community members, opinion leaders and healthcare workers.

Angula said the study aimed to develop, implement and evaluate tools at different levels in response to a lack of local stigma reduction intervention tools within the rural Namibian community.

A comparison of the results in both arms indicated that the intervention was effective in reducing stigma in the intervention arm in three of the four participant groups with varying degrees of success. 

‘Stigma scores were significantly decreased in people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) from the intervention arm. The intervention was effective, although it did not decrease all stigma scores significantly. It may require more time for the issues addressed in the intervention workshops to diffuse through the different groups,’ she said.

Angula is a Community Health Nursing lecturer at the University of Namibia and she said HIV/AIDS is one of the public challenges covered in the course modules. Additionally, when she conducted her Masters’ degree, she assessed the aspects which prevent PLWHA from living positively with the disease, although they have related health information.

‘Stigma was one of those aspects that were identified and I recommended it for future research,’ she said. 

Angula received a scholarship from the Columbia-Southern Africa Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program (CU-SA AITRP). She met with UKZN Professors Quarraisha Abdool Karim and Busi Ncama, together with a Columbian representative, who interviewed her and made pursuing a PhD at UKZN a reality.

‘Completing my PhD feels like a dream … My husband is more excited than I am. My road to PhD success was a tough one and I am grateful to God that I completed it successfully.’

Angula is currently compiling articles from her study, which she hopes to publish in relevant Nursing journals.

She said research is her passion and she would like to do it full-time if she gets an opportunity. ‘That is why I plan to do postdoctoral studies if Fogarty gives me another chance at a scholarship.’

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