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Political will, traditional leaders and the fight against HIV/AIDS: a South African case study

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Political will and leadership are increasingly considered key contextual influences on the outcomes of HIV/AIDS programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. Such debates tend to focus on the role of national leadership in shaping responses to the epidemic, with little attention to local leaders. Yet many of the settings in which HIV/AIDS flourishes are geographically distant from the reach of national leadership and policies. Furthermore, local leaders often play a key role in shaping how national policies and decisions are interpreted and implemented in local areas. Against this background, we present a case study of the impact of the leadership style of a traditional Chief on a community-based AIDS programme in a South African rural community, which sought to build community-level AIDS competence, using the empowerment via participation approach. The case study involved 134 interviews and 57 focus groups conducted over three years. Thematic content analysis revealed a number of direct and indirect ways in which his leadership style impacted on project outcomes. Despite his strong support for the programme, the Chief's traditional attitudes towards women and youth, his celebration of polygamy, and his authoritarian governance style undermined the project's empowerment via participation agenda - especially the programme's attempts to reduce AIDS stigma, to build female and youth capacity to control their sexual health, and to encourage men to take responsibility for their role in tackling AIDS.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/32183/

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