Title page for ETD etd-04052007-125746

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Bezuidenhout, Martha Dorothea
Email mdb@absamail.co.za
URN etd-04052007-125746
Document Title An existential perspective on a woman's search for meaningfulness while living with HIV/AIDS
Degree MA (Counseling Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Dr L M Eskell-Blokland Committee Chair
  • case study
  • culture
  • context
  • meaningfulness
  • non-being
  • higher being
  • existential vacuum
  • gender
  • existentialism
Date 2006-09-05
Availability unrestricted

This mini-dissertation examines how an African woman – as an individual – makes meaning of her life amidst her HIV positive status. Her search for meaning was explored through semi-structured interviews. The case study is situated within a South African context where HIV/AIDS has become a pandemic. The methodology used in this research is explorative and qualitative in nature, thus facilitating a process of interpretation resulting in thick description drawing on existential concepts. Relevant information from the participant’s counselling therapeutic process, prior to the research, is incorporated in the thick description of her living with and making meaning of HIV/AIDS.

An Existential perspective on the participant’s psychological experiences concerning meaningfulness and being is discussed in terms of themes drawn on in semi-structured interviews. Special emphasis is also placed on the concept of an “existential vacuum” that an individual might experience when affected by something as life changing as HIV/AIDS. Notions of anxiety and non-being are also key concepts in this particular case study. Spirituality and the sense of a Higher Being are explored as fundamental in the domain of this individual’s life, and therefore also in her production of meaning, as well as self-contemplation.

A constructionist epistemological approach is taken according to which the aims of the research are examined and interpreted. Attention is given to the participant’s experiences of the impact of both African and Western worldviews on her sense of being within the South-African context. Her perceptions and beliefs, as a Tswana woman, concerning traditional customs and significant figures are discussed, for example: sangomas, witchdoctors, ancestors, forefathers, HIV/AIDS, etc. These, often opposing, points of view are explored in detail when the biological, psychosocial, cultural and political contexts are taken into account. These are, in turn, coupled with an analysis of gender relations and their associated power relations within societal structures. Further examination reveals the expected physical and psychological phases associated with the HIV/AIDS disease.

The woman used in this case study relays her thoughts and experiences directly to the researcher and reader, as transcripts of semi-structured interviews with her are used in the text. Ethical considerations pertaining to both the participant and the researcher are also conveyed exhaustively. Issues in the interviews that are touched upon, include: How multiculturalism is perceived and experienced, the effects of stigmatisation, self-awareness and the conscience, traditional rituals and values associated with HIV/AIDS, transcendence and the responsibility for a sense of self. Arrays of emotions that are experienced under the circumstances include anger, depression, despair, defiance, hope and alienation. There is also a strong focus on the interaction between people, and especially on what is deemed as “meaningful relationships”.

Copyright 2006, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Bezuidenhout, MD 2006, An existential perspective on a woman's search for meaningfulness while living with HIV/AIDS , MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-04052007-125746 / >

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