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Religion, identity and public health in Botswana

African Identities , Volume 6 (2): 183-198 – May 1, 2008


© 2008 Informa plc
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Religion, identity and public health in Botswana


In this article we examine several rather conspicuous inconsistencies in the data available related to religious identity in Botswana and explore the possible importance of religious identity to issues of public health in general as well as HIV prevention and AIDS treatment policies in particular. We begin with a concise introduction to the historical context of religious identity in Botswana, which we consider to be important to comprehending religious identity as it applies to the spread of HIV in Botswana. We then focus on the available demographic data related to Botswana's religious identity, and because the data suggests that more than 80% of Batswana are Christian, we give special attention to the sub-categories of Christianity. We also argue that the influence of African traditional religion is far more significant than one might assume based on surveillance data. We explore the alleged value or possible importance of the religious identity question to informing national development policies and HIV prevention programmes. In the penultimate section of the essay, we suggest that the religious identity question may well be less important than the question of religiosity as an indicator of behaviour relevant to public health. We conclude this essay with several recommendations on how the religious identity question, if retained, could be modified.
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