Original Research

Exploring the challenges of implementing Participatory Action Research in the context of HIV and poverty

W.A. Rosenthal, D.D. Khalil
Curationis | Vol 33, No 2 | a1103 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v33i2.1103 | © 2010 W.A. Rosenthal, D.D. Khalil | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 September 2010 | Published: 28 September 2010

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W.A. Rosenthal, School of Nursing, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
D.D. Khalil, Division of Nursing & Midwifery University of Cape Town, South Africa

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HIV/AIDS is having a devastating impact on South Africa and particularly on poor communities. Empowerment of communities has been identified as an important step towards mitigating the consequences and helping communities to overcome the challenges presented. Participatory Action Research (PAR) has been identified as a useful methodology for the purpose of facilitating empowerment. This study explores the challenges involved in implementing PAR in the context of HIV/AIDS and poverty. In this article, the author describes a PAR project that took place in 2003/ 2004 with a group of five Xhosa speaking people living with HIV/AIDS in Masiphumelele, Cape Town. The aims of the study were to: 1. Create an opportunity for the participants to engage in a participatory process aimed at self-awareness and empowerment. 2. To record and analyse this process with the intention of producing insight into the use of PAR in the context of poverty and HIV/AIDS and to identify the challenges involved.

The findings of this study highlight some important insights into the process of engaging people in the PAR process and the experiences of HIV positive people living in the context of poverty. The study explores the challenges involved in the process of empowerment and examines the process of “transferring” power and control from the researcher to the participants. Challenges were uncovered both from the point of view of the researcher who had to “let go of control” and participants who had to take on control. Participants struggled with issues of low self-efficacy and learned helplessness. Fluctuations in health also contributed towards alternating periods of hope and despair and these problems had an impact on their motivation to participate in the study. Lack of motivation to participate is a challenge highlighted in the literature and explored in this study. Participation is necessary for a study of this nature to be of benefit to the community, but unfortunately those most in need were found to be least likely to participate.

The study also critically examines the research process that was conducted and highlights the positive and negative contribution of the process towards empowerment. Certain aspects of the research process, including the contracting process, were identified as being problematic as they emphasize the power and control of the researcher rather than the participants. Recommendations for future research include: Promoting participation among the disempowered; the Contracting process and Power relations in PAR


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