Misinformation about HIV in textbooks for schoolchildren (4) Use of the terms HIV and AIDS

4 October, 2019

Dear Clare,

Thank you for sharing your efforts to educate the youth and your interesting and useful work. I want here to point out that the association between HIV and AIDS must be banned from any message.

The work I published on misinformation in textbooks is part of a work I realized in Ivory Coast for UNAIDS and the Global Funds [http://www.hifa.org/dgroups-rss/misinformation-about-hiv-textbooks-schoo.... In order to design a communication strategy to increase HIV testing, with a team from the Houphouët-Boigny University we conducted a socio-anthropological study on the representations of HIV, AIDS and testing. One of the main outcomes of this study is that HIV is still associated to AIDS, and AIDS to death, despite the availability of antiretroviral therapy. The fear of death prevents many people to get tested, a positive result being, in their mind, a death penalty. Alleviating this fear should be one of the main axes of HIV communication.

Another outcome of our study is that even if many people know that medicines allow people living with HIV to keep a good health, often they don’t really believe it. Chronicity is not part of the disease representations in Africa. There are people who drop their antiviral therapy to go and see traditional healers. People can simultaneously think that treatments allow HIV positive people to be in a good health and that they will die of AIDS.

If we want more people to get tested, we must be very careful to never associate HIV and AIDS and to popularize the idea that HIV is not AIDS: between HIV and AIDS there are treatments (as your 3rd message reads).

Therefore, we must no longer use expressions such as « HIV and AIDS », as in your 7th, 8th and 9th messages. It is better to write people “live with HIV” then “people live with HIV and AIDS”. Whatever we will say or write, if we put “HIV” close to “AIDS” people will think HIV=AIDS.

Similarly, expressions such as « HIV/AIDS », « transmitting AIDS », « getting AIDS », etc. that are still around (not in your messages!), must be avoided.

Bernard Seytre

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HIFA profile: Bernard Seytre is a Consultant at BNSCommunication in France. Professional interests: Health communication and education. Email address: seytre AT bnscom.fr