Language, Beliefs and the HIV-AIDS Campaign In Africa



African governments accepted the reality of HIV-AIDS as a matter of convenience and not out of conviction. As a result, many of them failed to achieve the targets they set for HIV-AIDS prevention. This paper attributes this failure to the language and concepts used in introducing HIV-AIDS as a disease and in promoting safer sex practices such as abstinence, being faithful and condom use (ABC) as the core measures for the prevention of sexual transmission of HIV infection.  The paper observes that the concepts of HIV-AIDS, abstinence, mutual fidelity (monogamy) and condom use originated from the west and did not fit into the cosmology, the consensus of meaning and normative behaviour within the African sociocultural and economic environment and therefore could not engender the desired sexual behavioural changes at the group and individual levels. The paper notes however, that there are linguistic elements in some African countries studied that negatively or positively reinforce the spread of HIV-AIDS and promote large family size.  By identifying the linguistic elements in the culture that positively reinforce HIV-AIDS prevention messages and behaviours, we may succeed in assimilating the people’s traditional values in line with the demands of modernity. There is therefore need for semantic restructuring of HIV-AIDS campaign messages so that words, slogans and messages originate from the community and reflect the linguistic and sociocultural realities of the people. By using local language, local idioms, local media and local social networks, we may succeed in reducing the semantic noise in HIV-AIDS messages.

Keywords: Language and Beliefs, Language use and HIV/AIDS Transmission in  Africa.

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3267 ISSN (Online)2224-3275

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