NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Social capital of an Alpha support group

Auli Vähäkangas

The aim of an Alpha support group is to give information on how to live with the HIV virus and to give both psychological and material/medical support to the members of the group. The data was collected through three focus group interviews in Arusha, Tanzania. Campbell et al. (2002) define social capital in terms of people’s membership of voluntary community organizations. Baum (1999a and 1999b) stated social capital might provide a useful conceptual tool for exploring the relationship between health and community-level networks and relationships. Those writing on social capital in connection to health pose criticism to Putnam for failing to take adequate account that community networks and relationships are not always positive in their effects.
The paper aims to analyse how useful tool the concept of social capital (or negative side of it anti-social capital) is in interpreting the lives of HIV positive people especially in connection to their religious communities. In contemporary Tanzanian society the traditional communal support doesn’t seem to work effectively in regards to helping those affected by HIV/AIDS. The lack of communal support seem to present a strong need for formal support groups such as Alpha group.