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October 2021

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Apr; 44(8): 1211-20.

The difficulties of compiling a glossary of diseases associated with sexual intercourse in Chiawa, rural Zambia.

Bond V, Ndubani P.

It is increasingly appreciated that health interventions need to be sensitive to cultural perceptions of diseases and local disease terminology. This paper examines linguistic and conceptual problems encountered when researchers in rural Zambia try to develop a glossary which correlates biomedical terms for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with local terms for diseases associated with sexual intercourse. Problems arise because it is difficult to establish definite connections between local names and actual biomedical STDs. This paper attempts to draw up a delimited glossary of local terms for diseases associated with sexual intercourse in a rural Zambian community and explore compatibility with the biomedical glossary used in local, formal health facilities. The local terms fall into three broad categories. The first category comprises generic terms, the second symptomalogical terms, and the third category consists of folk concepts associated with moral digression. The concluding analysis speculates on the advantages of health staff being taught the glossary of local terms to use in their consultations with STD patients to facilitate dialogue between health staff and patients, and, perhaps, effective treatment of STDs.

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