Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2023

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Kevin M. Maloney

Second Advisor

Dr. Kimberly E. Freire

Third Advisor

Dr. Ruschelle Marie Leone


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a significant global public health issue with 38.4 million individuals living with the virus in 2021. South Africa has experienced the world’s largest HIV epidemic across all regions, with 7.5 million individuals living the virus, 210,000 new infections and 51,000 related deaths, in 2021. Interventions have focused on targeting sexual behaviors and addressing mediators of HIV transmission, such as poverty, age, socioeconomic status, education, and gender. Despite a drop in HIV incidence, the virus is still having a negative impact on the continent. This paper highlights overlooked but essential mediators of HIV transmission in South Africa, including contemporary African stigmas, social norms, and cultural practices. Examples of these mediators unique to South Africa include stigmas surrounding people living with albinism, social norms such as child and forced marriages, and cultural rituals such as bloodletting and blood brotherhood. Research has shown that there is a link between these mediators and HIV transmission, but the response to these factors has been limited. The proposed interventions Traditional Healers Education Program, PLWA Safe Communities and the Child Marriage Act of 2023 all aim to not only solve these mediators, but fill in the gaps of the previous interventions. Overall, to further decrease HIV incidence in South Africa, tailored interventions are needed to address unique risk factors affecting vulnerable populations. Despite relatively small population sizes, vulnerable communities should not be overlooked, due to their disproportionate burden of HIV incidence and transmission, as well as the human rights implications.


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Available for download on Wednesday, November 01, 2023