Reflecting and shaping the discourse: the role of music in AIDS communication in Tanzania

Soc Sci Med. 2009 Apr;68(7):1357-60. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.01.030. Epub 2009 Feb 18.


Failure to recognize the importance of oral traditions in Africa and the potential of music and song for stimulating social and behavior change would represent a missed opportunity in HIV prevention strategies. Local narratives concerning AIDS are often utilized in popular songs and constitute rich sources of contextual information about the epidemic that have thus far been un- or underutilized in HIV prevention strategies. Endogenously conceived messages delivered via a channel such as music increase the likelihood of messages being contextually appropriate and culturally engaging. This form of media also presents the greatest opportunity for wide dissemination. Drawing on field work conducted in the Kilimanjaro region, this paper presents examples of how music and musicians in Tanzania reflect and potentially shape AIDS discourse. Three broad recurrent themes addressed in songs are discussed: AIDS metaphors, stigma and broader HIV prevention messages. By tapping into the wealth of information about AIDS discourse contained within popular songs, and by recognizing musicians as potential opinion leaders and agents of social change, the effectiveness of prevention strategies may be increased.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health
  • Communication
  • Culture
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metaphor*
  • Music
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Change
  • Tanzania