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 Wednesday 15 April 2009
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AFRICA: Mind your language - a guide to HIV/AIDS slang

Photo: Gabriel Fossati-Bellani/CMFD
The word on the street
JOHANNESBURG, 12 November 2008 (PlusNews) - You spoke and we listened. PlusNews has updated its popular report, "Mind your language" – a glossary of HIV and AIDS slang from across Africa – with your contributions.

Namibia (Oshiwambo, spoken mainly in the north)

Okakiya - "Thorn" (Contracting HIV is like being pricked with a thorn, sure to cause discomfort; HIV-positive people are said to have been "pricked by a thorn")

Omukithi gwo paive - "The disease of the present" (HIV and AIDS are new problems)

Namibia and parts of Angola (Oshindonga)

Omukithi gwo goni - "A disease of shame" (refers to AIDS)

South Africa (SePulana, a language in the North Sotho group)

Ba mo tshwarisiye noga - "They threw a snake at him/her" - (refers to HIV; the shock when someone discovers his or her status)

O apere lepanta - "The belt" (supposed symptom of AIDS, in which a positive person develops a rash around their torso; it is also mistakenly believed that as the rash spreads, the person falls sicker and sicker until the "belt" connects to form a ring, at which time the person dies)

South Africa (English)

A slow puncture - HIV (refers to the gradual weight loss associated with the disease)

Botswana (SeTswana)

Phamo kate - phamo "a quick snatch", and kate "buried" (refers to AIDS)

Onale jwa radio - "He/she has the disease talked about on the radio" (radio is the primary method of disseminating HIV/AIDS knowledge)

Bolwestse jo booleng - "The illness that has befallen [us]" (euphemism for HIV and AIDS as a new illness)

Segajaja - meaning "something aggressive" (refers to HIV or AIDS)

Central African Republic (Sango)

Kota kobela - "Big sickness" (euphemism for AIDS, which people associate with slow, painful death)

Ala ninga na kobela - "They had been sick for a long time" (refers to death from  AIDS-related complications)

If you would like to add to this ever-expanding, reader-generated glossary, send your contributions to [email protected]. Be sure to say where the terms are used, in which language they are, and give a brief description to help other readers understand their meaning and why they are used.

For more HIV and AIDS slang from Africa, be sure to check out the first installment of  "Mind your language - a short guide to HIV/AIDS slang"


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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