Discover SIL

Goal 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

People in ethnolinguistic communities are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases due in part to the lack of essential information in the mother tongue. Reading materials in local languages that discuss hygiene, nutrition,and the prevention and treatment of diseases have proven to be effective in improving general health and life expectancy. The availability of culturally-relevant information dispels misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS.

"This is one of the best stories in Bafut!"

African children without parentsOne day Becky Mfonyam started reading theKande story to her hairdresser. When she stopped reading, the hairdresser asked, "Why did you stop? Keep reading. This is one of the best stories in Bafut!"

Kande is the true-to-life story of a 12-year-old African girl who struggles to raise her younger brothers and sisters after their parents’ death from AIDS. The booklet is impacting lives in many communities by presenting the important message of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in a culturally appropriate story form.

The story not only addresses the problems faced by HIV/AIDS, but it teaches people that they can resist the temptation to participate in extramarital relationships. Teachers have discovered that even if they read the story in a classroom of noisy students, the room will become completely quiet.

Kande has been translated into 15 other languages of Cameroon as well as dozens of other languages across Africa and around the world. Lives are changed when communities take ownership of this emotionally-compelling vital health information.

"HIV/AIDS was speaking my mother tongue"

AIDS booklets in mother tongue"Some years ago my elder brother passed on after a long illness. According to local custom, his next brother inherited his wife. He too passed away. The wife was accused of witchcraft, and later she too died. The three individuals presented the same symptoms before their death. In the community, people said it was the result of AIDS. I could not believe such a thing since we believed AIDS was an acronym for 'American Invention to Discourage Sex.'

"Then one day a man in our local church gave me a brochure on HIV/AIDS. This brochure in our mother tongue was developed by SIL Cameroon. That day, reading through it, the message was so clear and spoke directly to my heart. I understood that HIV/AIDS was speaking my mother tongue—meaning, it was a member of our community and present in our village. I wish I had read this brochure before; perhaps I could have saved at least one of my brothers' lives." Similar reports have come from other *language communities that have this AIDS brochure.

*This AIDS brochure is published in 34 languages: Aghem, Bakossi, Bafut, Babanki, Bulu, Bum, Badwe'e, Cuvok, Fang (EG), Fulfulde Ajamiya, Fulfulde Romans, Hdi, Gemzek, Kako, Kejom, Kenyang, Kombe (EG), Lamnso', Mbembe, Mékaa, Meta', Moloko, Muyang, Nomaande, Ngomba, Nuasue, Nugunu, Numaala, Pinyin, Spanish (EG), Tuki, Tunen, Yambetta, Yemba

Informational DVD Dramatizes HIV/AIDS

Nukna people dancingIn a culture where information is often relayed through songs, dance and plays, the people of Papua New Guinea (PNG) are receiving life-saving education in a culturally relevant medium. A DVD titled Get AIDS—Get Trouble dramatizes how HIV/AIDS affects the family when one member contracts the disease. Produced and performed in one of PNG's trade languages, Melanesian Pidgin, the DVD has been translated into several local languages.

PNG is vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Low literacy rates and lack of access to reliable media sources mean that many face this new sickness with misconceptions. A booklet that accompanies the DVD clearly describes causes, preventative measures, consequences and the care needed for victims. The booklet has now been translated and printed in more than 30 PNG languages. Funding from the National AIDS Council of PNG has helped to cover printing and distribution costs.

Related stories


<< BACK TO WHY LANGUAGES MATTER