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Exploring the Discourse of HIV/Aids in East African Health Communication: A Corpus Linguistic Review


HIV/AIDS is a serious health concern in East Africa, and good communication regarding prevention, treatment, and stigma reduction is critical for public health. The importance of effective communication in the medical field has been known for quite some time (Batchelor et al.,2019). Intralingual communication, or conversation between speakers of the same language, has received considerable attention in academic research and practitioner education. Primary care, telemedicine, media campaigns, online health information, and regular interpersonal communication are only some of the contexts and channels where intralingual communication has been studied by academics (Batchelor et al.,2019).

Interlingual communication, or conversation between people who speak different languages, has also garnered considerable attention. Corpus linguistic analysis may provide light on the prevailing discourses and language usage around HIV/AIDS in health communication (Okpeh et al.,2020). Through a corpus linguistic analysis, this literature review will investigate how HIV/AIDS is discussed in East African health communication and their effect on public knowledge of the illness. This review aims to identify and analyze the use of language and discourse in various East African health communication genres related to HIV/AIDS. This research is part of the wider topic of natural language processing (NLP), which seeks to analyze and comprehend human language via computer technologies.

Problem definition

The language used in health communication significantly impacts how people in East Africa think about and talk about HIV/AIDS. Many stakeholders, including healthcare practitioners and academics, may interpret keywords like “health communication” and “discourse” differently. According to Sharma and Sharma (2010), discourse involves constructing and arranging linguistic elements above and below the sentence level. It is pieces of words, some longer than others but whose significance extends beyond the confines of a single phrase. Discourse may refer to any linguistic sample, whether spoken or written, and for any purpose. Wu and Lin (2019) state that any sequence of spoken or written phrases flows logically from one to the next. Sentence boundaries cannot be imposed on discourse. It cannot be expressed in a single statement.

Similarly, according to Olohiomeru (2019), health communication is acknowledged as a means to bring health information and other health services closer to the population. Most individuals have enough knowledge of health concerns because of an efficient and easily accessible health communication system, as Anwar et al. (2020) noted. The health care system’s communication process aims to disseminate information about people’s health to the general public. However, the overarching goal of communication is to ensure that those who are supposed to benefit from health care do.

Data Sets

Different data sets were used in these research papers. The three studies examine HIV/AIDS discourse in various settings and literary forms using various datasets.

Using a corpus of newspaper stories, Makamani and Mutasa (2017) examine the linguistic encoding of HIV/AIDS discourse in the Kwayedza daily in Zimbabwe. The articles in the corpus were taken from the Kwayedza newspaper’s digital archives and spanned the years 1998-2012. 8205-word categories and 20 996 tokens were analyzed to determine the context of keywords in their respective languages.

Using interviews with physicians, nurses, and counselors at VCTs in Eldoret, Kenya’s Uasin Gishu area, Waitiki (2010) analyzes doctor-patient dialogue in a subset of the country’s healthcare facilities. A doctor from the Luo group, a Kenyan of Indian descent, and a member of the Luhya community were interviewed. Among those speaking were a nurse from the Kikuyu group and a counseling officer from the Kalenjin community. This study uses audio recordings of doctor consultations at Kenyan health clinics to analyze the doctor-patient dialogue.

Using focus group talks with HIV-positive women in Rwanda, Mukamana et al. (2022) examine the dehumanizing language used in discourses about parenthood in the context of HIV. In 2017, the authors held focus groups with three-three women from urban and rural settings HIV-positive women in Rwanda (Mukamana et al.,2022). The conversations were recorded and then subjected to thematic analysis.

Discourse about HIV and AIDS may benefit from each dataset’s unique qualities and perspectives. Doctor-patient consultations provide a micro-level examination of communication between healthcare practitioners and patients in the setting of HIV/AIDS. At the same time, the Kwayedza newspaper corpus offers a macro-level analysis of the media’s portrayal of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe. Discussions with HIV-positive women in Rwanda provide richer insights into the realities faced by those living with the virus there. These studies, taken as a whole, provide a rich portrait of the language obstacles faced by the anti-HIV/AIDS movement across various settings and forms of expression.

Approaches, Methods, and Models

Corpus analysis (CA) was employed at the micro-level (word or first level), and critical discourse analysis (CDA) was utilized at the macro-level (discourse level) by Makamani and Mutasa (2017) to examine the linguistic encoding of HIV/AIDS discourse by the Kwayedza newspaper in Zimbabwe. It uses a two-level analytical framework to examine data at the lexical and rhetorical levels. The study’s theoretical foundation is strengthened by the use of corpus analysis, which allows the authors to examine factors like lexical patterns and frequency objectively. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) investigates how language reflects and perpetuates existing social inequities (Gorichanaz, 2018). This work shows how CDA may open up and illuminate conversations. The Kwaedza newspaper’s reporting on the triumphs and failures of the Zimbabwean government’s HIV and AIDS policy implementation is crucial to the research.

Waitiki (2010) used a discourse analysis method to study doctor-patient conversations in Kenyan clinics. The goal of the discourse analysis method is to investigate the ways in which language is used to construct and reveal social practices and power structures. In this work, we utilize a discourse analytic technique to analyze the difficulties in communication between medical professionals and their patients when discussing HIV/AIDS and how these difficulties impact the success of preventative and treatment initiatives.

Mukamana et al. (2022) conducted focus group research using a guided interview guide to gather qualitative data on the lived experiences of HIV-positive women in Rwanda, focusing on the impact of dehumanizing language and HIV-related stigma. The data was obtained in July 2018 and analyzed using a framework approach. The purpose of focus group research is to gather in-depth qualitative data by having participants discuss a topic in a group setting. The study utilized a focus group research design to learn about the lived experiences of HIV-positive women in Rwanda and explore how dehumanizing language shapes their lives and spreads HIV stigma.

The research topic, the data gathered, the study setting, and the research design are all crucial factors to consider when comparing the methods used in these articles. In work by Makamani and Mutasa (2017), the CA and CDA method was suitable since the topic the authors attempted to answer concerned the manifestations of social power in language. In contrast, Waitiki’s (2010) paper use of the discourse analysis technique was acceptable since the research topic centered on the many ways language use impedes the provision of health care services in Kenya. Therefore, the method used should be suitable for the study’s objectives and setting.

Major trend or pattern

The articles have a similarity in focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS discourse on people and communities. Papers focus on how HIV/AIDS-related language and discourse impact social practices, power relations, and stigma.

The articles are also interested in analyzing HIV/AIDS-related language and discourse using qualitative research methodologies, including discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, and focus group investigations. The goal of these techniques is to create rich qualitative data with which to investigate the nuances of social occurrences.

The articles also stress the need to examine the language and cultural setting of HIV/AIDS-related communication. For instance, Waitiki (2010) studied doctor-patient conversations in Kenyan health centers, which often spanned linguistic boundaries. The Kwayedza newspaper of Zimbabwe was studied by Makamani and Mutasa (2017), who found that it accurately mirrored the country’s language and cultural milieu.


This review summarizes the three studies from which various significant insights and conclusions may be taken. The results show that the way individuals talk about HIV and AIDS is essential and may lead to prejudice and discrimination toward those who are HIV-positive. Additionally, it is imperative that those in positions of power, such as the media, healthcare providers, and the general public, adopt language that is factually correct, not stigmatizing, and encouraging to those who are HIV positive. Furthermore, examining the linguistic encoding of HIV/AIDS discourse and detecting patterns and trends in the use of language is facilitated by corpus-based critical discourse analysis.

The papers’ strength is in their utilization of a wide variety of data sources, such as newspaper articles, interviews, and focus groups, to give a multifaceted examination of how HIV/AIDS-related terminology is used (. However, future studies may benefit from the publications’ explicit evaluations of the quality and representativeness of their corpora. More study is needed on how people of various cultures and languages talk about HIV and AIDS so that we may better understand the linguistic and cultural norms surrounding these topics.


Anwar, A., Malik, M., Raees, V., & Anwar, A. (2020). Role of mass media and public health communications in the COVID-19 pandemic. Cureus, 12(9).!/

Batchelor, K., Yoda, L. A., Ouattara, F. E. G. S., & Hellewell, O. (2019). Multilingualism and strategic planning for HIV/AIDS-related health care and communication. Wellcome Open Research, 4.

Gorichanaz, T. (2018). Research Methods: Information, Systems, and Contexts, edited by Kirsty Williamson and Graeme Johanson, Sawston, UK, Chandos Publishing, 2018, 622 pp., A 187.27(softcover),ISBN978-0-0810-2220-7;A 187.27 (eBook), ISBN 978-0-0810-2221- 4; US 160.80(bundle).

Makamani, R., & Mutasa, D. E. (2017). A corpus-based critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the linguistic encoding of HIV and AIDS discourse by the Kwayedza newspaper in Zimbabwe. South African Journal of African Languages, 37(1), 85-98.

Mukamana, D., Gishoma, D., Holt, L., Kayiranga, D., Na, J. J., White, R., … & Relf, M. V. (2022). Dehumanizing language, motherhood in the context of HIV, and overcoming HIV stigma-the voices of Rwandan women with HIV: A focus group study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 135, 104339.

Okpeh, P. O., Ibileye, G., & Ohiemi, J. O. (2020). Conceptual Metaphor Analysis of the Discourse of HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaigns in Nigeria. LOJEL, 16.

Olohiomeru, G. (2019). Impact of Effective Health Communication Strategies in Nigerian Health Care Delivery System. EAS Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies, 1(5). 10.36349/EASJHCS.2019.v01i05.001

Sharma, K., & Sharma, M. (2010). Linguistic discourse analysis: Introduction and structure. Call for papers.

Waitiki, S. W. (2010). Linguistic challenges in the fight again HIV and AIDS: an analysis of Doctor-Patient discourse in Kenyan health centers. Journal of language, technology & entrepreneurship in Africa, 2(2), 60-74.

Wu, Y., & Lin, A. M. (2019). Translanguaging and trans-sanitising in a CLIL biology class in Hong Kong: Whole-body sense-making in the flow of knowledge co-making. Classroom Discourse, 10(3-4), 252-273.


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