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Indigenous knowledge of HIV/AIDS among High School students in Namibia

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      BackgroundThe use of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) can help students to form schemas for interpreting local phenomena through the prism of what they already know. The formation of schemas related to HIV/AIDS risk perception and prevention is important for individuals to form local meanings of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The objective of this study was to explore the indigenous names and symptoms of HIV/AIDS among High School students in NamibiaMethodsFocus group discussions were used to collect qualitative data on indigenous names and symptoms of HIV/AIDS from students in 18 secondary schools located in six education regions. Data were grouped into themes.ResultsPeople living with HIV/AIDS were called names meaning prostitute: ihule, butuku bwa sihule, and shikumbu. Names such askibutu bwa masapo (bone disease),katjumba (a young child),kakithi (disease), andshinangele (very thin person) were used to describe AIDS. Derogatory names like mbwa (dog), esingahogo (pretender), ekifi (disease), and shinyakwi noyana (useless person) were also used. Other terms connoted death (zeguru, heaven; omudimba, corpse), fear (simbandembande, fish eagle; katanga kamufifi, (hot ball), and subtle meaning using slang words such as 4 × 4, oondanda ne (four letters), desert soul, and mapilelo (an AIDS service organization). Typical (body wasting) and non-typical (big head, red eyes) symptoms of HIV were also revealed.ConclusionsThe study determined students' IK of the names and symptoms of HIV/AIDS. Programmes to prevent/manage adolescent HIV infection and stigma may be strengthened if they take students' indigenous understandings of the disease on board.

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      The human AIDS viruses human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and type 2 (HIV-2) represent cross-species (zoonotic) infections. Although the primate reservoir of HIV-2 has been clearly identified as the sooty mangabey (Cercocebus atys), the origin of HIV-1 remains uncertain. Viruses related to HIV-1 have been isolated from the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), but only three such SIVcpz infections have been documented, one of which involved a virus so divergent that it might represent a different primate lentiviral lineage. In a search for the HIV-1 reservoir, we have now sequenced the genome of a new SIVcpzstrain (SIVcpzUS) and have determined, by mitochondrial DNA analysis, the subspecies identity of all known SIVcpz-infected chimpanzees. We find that two chimpanzee subspecies in Africa, the central P. t. troglodytes and the eastern P. t. schweinfurthii, harbour SIVcpz and that their respective viruses form two highly divergent (but subspecies-specific) phylogenetic lineages. All HIV-1 strains known to infect man, including HIV-1 groups M, N and O, are closely related to just one of these SIVcpz lineages, that found in P. t. troglodytes. Moreover, we find that HIV-1 group N is a mosaic of SIVcpzUS- and HIV-1-related sequences, indicating an ancestral recombination event in a chimpanzee host. These results, together with the observation that the natural range of P. t. troglodytes coincides uniquely with areas of HIV-1 group M, N and O endemicity, indicate that P. t. troglodytes is the primary reservoir for HIV-1 and has been the source of at least three independent introductions of SIVcpz into the human population.
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         L Garro (1994)
        The narratives individuals told about their experiences with an illness they have come to understand as TMJ, a problem linked to the temporomandibular joints of the jaw, are complex. Each is embedded within a unique set of life circumstances and guided by individual schemas and explanatory models. Each recounts how persons have come to make sense of perplexing symptoms that are not easily categorized and treated within the North American health care system. Yet, in spite of their distinctiveness, the reconstructed narratives are not independent of shared cultural schemas, such as those relating to mind and body, and other shared models, such as the model for TMJ, which individuals come to adopt as a consequence of treatment and interaction with others. The consistent emergence of themes concerning the mind and body within and across narratives attest to their salience for understanding the narratives related here. While describing the effect of illness on individual lives, narratives also illuminate how shared understanding shape the interpretation and construction of individual experience.
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          Indigenous representations of illness and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.

          Cultures all over the world have evolved illness representations that can accommodate not only new diseases, but also new epistemologies for explaining disease. This paper examines illness representations in Sub-Saharan Africa, and how these have responded to the emergence of AIDS. Indigenous views of illness (particularly STDs) exhibit coherent structure, in which causation, prevention and treatment relate to one another in functional ways. As an STD, an epidemic, and a disease which leads to premature death, AIDS lends itself readily to accommodation into established indigenous representations of illness. Even biomedical views of causation can be readily incorporated into traditional views of how illnesses are caused. However, biomedical and traditional views concerning prevention appear to be in direct conflict with one another, with potentially hazardous consequences. Research exploring the extent to which indigenous beliefs may be influencing people's decisions about safe sex could offer useful insights for AIDS prevention programs.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Namibia, P/B 13301, Windhoek, Namibia
            [2 ]Department of Science, Mathematics and Sports Education, Faculty of Education, University of Namibia, P/B 13301, Windhoek, Namibia
            J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
            Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
            BioMed Central
            9 June 2011
            : 7
            : 17
            Copyright ©2011 Chinsembu et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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