Cultural and ethnic identity and folk beliefs play a decisive role in perceptions, attitudes and practices regarding
health care and illness. Such beliefs and practices of a community may have an influence on the causes and
transmission of diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases. The purpose of the study on which this article is
based, was to describe cultural beliefs of the Vhavenda on the causes and transmission of sexually transmitted
A qualitative research approach using grounded theory was used. In-depth interviews were held with thirteen keyinformants
in the community and seven traditional healers. Snowball and theoretical sampling were used to identify
the participants. The results showed that the concept “dirt” (uncleanliness) is viewed by the Vhavenda as the main
cause of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The understanding of “dirt” is placed in the context of uncleanliness
in the form of vaginal discharges such as menstruation, post-abortion discharges and lochia (post-partum discharges).
Women are viewed as carriers of STIs. Knowledge of cultural beliefs of the Vhavenda on the causes and
transmission of STIs can serve as a point of departure in providing health education about sexually transmitted
infections. The initiative may assist to facilitate change in clients’ health behaviour and enabling health practitioners
to render culturally congruent care.
This article was written by Fhumulani Mavis Mulaudzi before she joined the University of Pretoria.