The goal of this study was to explore and describe roles of social workers in enhancing social capital in communities to manage HIV and Aids in the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalities. In order to achieve this goal, a qualitative research approach was adopted to explore and describe the views of social workers and community members. The research deals with the roles of social workers in enhancing social capital in the communities of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalities in order to manage HIV and Aids.
To this end, the collective case study design guided the study. Focus group interviews were used as the data collection method for this study, and two distinct interview schedules developed and utilised for social workers and community members, respectively. From the raw data, the researcher implemented the qualitative data analysis process of Creswell (1998) to extrapolate themes and sub-themes through thematic analysis. The trustworthiness of the data interpretation was confirmed through reflexibility, voluntary participation and the guarantee of anonymity.
An analysis of three different sources of data, namely the literature review and focus group interviews with social workers and community members was undertaken to answer the following two research questions, namely: (1) Based on the views of social workers, what are the roles of social workers in enhancing social capital in the communities to manage HIV and Aids in the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalities?; and (2) Based on the views of community members, what are the roles of social workers in enhancing social capital in the communities to manage HIV and Aids in the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalities?
The key finding of the study was that, social workers have various roles to play in enhancing the social capital of communities to manage HIV and Aids in the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalities. More specifically, it was found that: (1) Social workers provide critical services in the identification and assessment of situations in which relationships between people and social institutions need to be initiated, enhanced, restored, protected and terminated; (2) Social workers promote social change, problem solving in human relationships, and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance their well-being; (3) Social workers provide essential leadership and support in mobilising community response to HIV and Aids; (4) Social workers strengthen bonding, bridging or linking relationships that are critical for building family and community capacity, connecting families to services and supports, improving safety nets for prevention and early intervention, and for empowering family and community members; (5) Social workers develop special kinds of local communities that promote people’s health and well-being and, at the same time, contribute to sustainable, integrated social and economic development; and finally, Social workers play a critical role in combating stigma related to HIV and Aids through education and raising awareness. In strengthening the roles of social workers to enhance social capital in the communities, in order to manage HIV and Aids in the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan, the following recommendations are made: to ensure that relevant international, regional, national, provincial and district level policies, guidelines and other relevant statutes are part of social workers’ workplace orientation programme and continuous professional training; to emphasise the social capital concept in the tertiary education curriculum of social workers; to ensure that social workers are urgently and continuously strengthened and sustained during HIV prevention efforts; to ensure that social workers transition from their work in needs orientation to human rights affirmation; to encourage the NGO sector to include a developmental social work focus in their HIV and Aids work with communities; and to ensure that social workers work on coordination and open discussions of interpersonal networks between the government and NGOs. These recommendations are consolidated into a document entitled ‘Guidelines for social workers to building social capital in communities towards the management of HIV and Aids in the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipalities’.
Future research could focus on the following: (1) Extending the research study to other Metropolitan Municipalities in the Gauteng province in order to compare if social workers in other municipalities identifies with the findings of the current study and to expand the recommendations originating from this study on a provincial level; (2) Investigating social capital as a community development tool for social work in the context of HIV prevention and management in the South African context further; (3) Guiding social workers on the role they could play in the efforts to prevent and manage HIV infection at community level; and (4) Implementing the guidelines originating from this study in practice and determining their strengths and limitations.