questions i get.

This is a sampling of anonymous questions from the secondary school students I have been training on HIV/AIDS. Note the different slang kids use here!


(click on the photo to enlarge and read).

When I teach, I am always amazed at how much the average Ugandan kid knows about HIV/AIDS.  Though they generally do not receive comprehensive sex education or extensive information on reproductive health, this generation has been inundated with messages about HIV/AIDS ever since they can remember. And yet, inevitably, lots of talk about the virus has opened the way for the spread of myths and rumors and misinformation. It’s normal for me to get questions about HIV being passed by mosquitoes or through sharing toothbrushes. For most groups that I train, I try to present the information in the most straightforward way I know how, so that trainees can go on to respond to any rumor with reasoned knowledge.

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4 Responses to questions i get.

  1. childpleazee1 says:

    Hello, my name is Al. I am a potential Peace Corps Volunteer in the last stages of the application. Just curious what are the myths you hear about AIDS? Feel free to email me at

  2. emlsewhere says:

    Hi Al,

    There are a lot of myths about HIV/AIDS. For example, many believe that someone with HIV is always skinny (in fact, the local language word for HIV is “silim,” because years ago, before ARV drugs, AIDS was known as the slimming disease) and sick-looking. There’s a lack of understanding that HIV can have a very long asymptomatic phase during which a person can transmit the virus to others.

    Some people think that having sex with a virgin can cure AIDS. Some think that prayer has cured AIDS (tabloid newspapers here tend to make claims that certain pastors are able to cure AIDS).

    There are lots of myths about condoms– people say that they don’t work, they can make you sterile or that they have HIV in them.

    Then there is the discrimination that people who are HIV positive face because of the myths about transmission. Some think that only promiscuous people and prostitutes get HIV. Others think you can get HIV from casual contact, which leads to abusive treatment of people who have the virus– though luckily this is diminishing as people are given accurate information.

    I’m sure there are other myths I’m not thinking of at the moment. There’s also lots of interesting myths about sex: it makes you fat; if you don’t have it early, you’ll go “dormant”; if you wash with coca cola after sex, you won’t get pregnant. Interesting, huh?

    Hope this answers your question! Good luck with the application process! Sometimes it seems like it’ll never end, but I would definitely say it’s worth it.

  3. childpleazee1 says:

    This is Al again. Just read the questions those kids asked. Scary stuff. Correct me if I’m wrong, but one kid asked if just washing his penis after sex with someone with HIV will safeguard him/her? Anyone who says the Peace Corps isn’t needed doesn’t know your story. Keep up with the blogs

  4. emlsewhere says:

    Al, Indeed, I get that question sometimes. Some secondary students ask me a version that includes washing with soda! I have no idea how that rumor got started. There are other interesting myths, like that a girl can’t get pregnant if she has sex while standing! It’s true- there are lots of kids who need accurate information, and lots of parents who need to realize that, if they don’t give their kids the information, they’re going to be engaging in risky behaviors. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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