Social Science and Medicine, 44 (4), 431-439
The Tonga of Southern Zambia usually refer to a traditional disease, Kahungo, when talking about AIDS. Such an association of AIDS with a traditional disease could easily be interpreted as a cultural obstacle to an understanding of AIDS and thus to a change of behaviour. However, a close investigation shows that this association is not the result of categorical thinking, but rather of narrative logic. What people are actually articulating when they associate AIDS with kahungo is a narrative about order, disorder and respect for existing rules and values of the society. The paper investigates how the dynamic notion of narrative may help us to get a better understanding of how people work towards a shared understanding of a new disease, and the implications this may have for AIDS education. It is argued that such local versions of the “story about AIDS” should be taken seriously and that they may contain as much “truth” as the version of the “North” which is usually promoted in AIDS education. AIDS education should, rather than being a transfer of knowledge, be an exchange of narratives and an attempt to “set a story in motion”, that hinders the spread of AIDS.
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