Stigma and suffering : a theological reflection within the HIV/AIDS pandemic from the perspective of a theologia resurrectionis
Stigma is a social-identity devaluation due to a characteristic mark or feature. It imposes a discredited status, resulting in personal/social rejection and suffering. As a psychosocial construction, stigma reflects a systemic influence, as determined by the history and characteristics of the individual's psychological and social environment. This study explores the nature, variations, development, functions, processes, and justification of stigma and stigmatisation. It reflects on the experiential context of HIV/AIDS stigma/stigmatisation from the perspective of both the stigmatiser and stigmatised. Accounting for HIV/AIDS stigma are factors such as concealability, the unpredictability of infection, its terminal nature, and visible manifestations. The result is the multi-faceted suffering of internalised and external stigma, manifested by the prejudice, rejection, ostracism, discrimination, and condemnation of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. An assessment of HIV/AIDS destigmatisation found that it represents a recent development in the struggle against the pandemic. Destigmatisation interventions have been mostly ineffective because they lack a systems approach. Destigmatisation interventions must be developed with cognisance of the societal context, cultural impediments, major causes and problems of the pandemic. It was argued and concluded that theology can play a major role in combating HIV/AIDS stigma and stigmatisation. Scripture provides both knowledge and existential direction to inform HIV/AIDS destigmatisation. Stigmatisation is sin because it robs the human being - as created in the image of God, reconciled, and redeemed through the cross and resurrection - from his God-endowed dignity and worth. A theology of HIV/AIDS, including a theology of affirmation and an inhabitational theology, is required to adequately address HIV/AIDS stigmatisation and destigmatisation. A theology of affirmation is appropriate because it confirms the eschatological ontology of the human being as a new creation, with a new, stigma-freed identity and status. An inhabitational theology reflects triumph over stigma through the empowerment of the indwelling Spirit. It was concluded that both a theology of the cross (reflecting the passion and compassion of God) and a theology of the resurrection is needed. A theology of the cross reveals our human condition of sin, guilt and guilt feelings, but also God's grace, our salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation. A theologia resurrectionis emphasises the power of God over sin, results in the transformation of the believer, which enables empowerment through the Spirit - who infuses the believer with courage, meaning, purpose, dignity and self-worth. Stigmatisation has made way for self-worth, victory, and charisma. The study concluded that the church has a major role to play in the destigmatisation of HIV/AIDS stigma. The church should contribute to the deconstruction of power and counter systemic injustices. Its should follow a holistic, systems approach, involving the proclamation of a theology of life, practicing pastoral care, participate in the missio Dei, and exhibiting a normative basis regarding destigmatisation interventions - especially with regard to marriage, gender and sex education. It should fulfil its calling of service, participate in the home-based care of the HIV/AIDS infected and affected (including children), and demonstrate the resurrection identity of hope and empowerment, as enabled by the Holy Spirit.