January 31, 2006
The range of different languages spoken in Mozambique presents a challenge to health authorities seeking to disseminate HIV prevention messages.
Linguist Esmeralda Xavier has been studying the language of prevention messages and evaluating whether translations are sensitive to cultural issues. For instance, she found that a series of posters produced by the nongovernmental Foundation for Community Development was viewed somewhat negatively by the target audiences. Translated from the official language of Portuguese into an indigenous language, the posters were aimed at miners and truckers, two groups whose itinerant lifestyles make them vulnerable to HIV. "[The] community was not consulted sufficiently," Xavier said. Miners said they felt they alone were being blamed, though their wives back home also could be spreading HIV by being unfaithful.
Overall, though, Xavier said she was "impressed by the number of publications and radio programs that are put out in local languages."
The government understands the need to produce materials appropriate to communities, said Elias Cossa, coordinator of communication and advocacy at the National Council to Combat HIV/AIDS. Authorities have established a policy that "information, education and communication materials must be produced locally and in a participatory way," he said. "There are also cultural taboos, for example - youth should not speak about sex to older people, women can talk only to other women about sex and not men - and these need to be respected."
Because 54 percent of the nation's people are illiterate, radio is the chief means of communicating about AIDS in Mozambique. Radio Mozambique's soap opera "Ruth and Her Friends," which is broadcast in 11 languages, has dealt with AIDS.
UNICEF supports a Radio Mozambique broadcast whose main purpose is to promote HIV prevention among young people. The show's more than 200 young announcers broadcast in Portuguese and 16 local languages.