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Information Realities of HIV/AIDS Information in Sub-Saharan Africa: Barriers and Challenges to Information Professionals

Moderator: Kendra Albright (Tennessee) Sponsors: SIG III, SIG USE, SIG MED, SIG Policy, and SIG Social Informatics

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


Information is a key weapon in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit region of the world in terms of HIV/AIDS. With slightly over 10% of the world’s population, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 64% of the people living with HIV/AIDS and 77% of the deaths from AIDS in 2005 (UNAIDS, 2006). In response to the AIDS pandemic, policies are being developed in many African countries focusing on information, education, and communication (IEC) strategies as a means of prevention. Through the widespread dissemination of HIV/AIDS information, the people of Sub-Saharan Africa can gain the knowledge needed to change their behavioral response to the AIDS epidemic. Libraries can play a central role in the provision of HIV/AIDS information. Libraries in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, are constrained by a number of factors that may limit their involvement in HIV/AIDS information dissemination. They face obstacles including a society based on oral tradition, illiteracy, a limited awareness and understanding of the information needs of people in Sub-Saharan societies, and scarce resources.

This panel brings together African scholars involved in the role of information in fighting HIV/AIDS. Dr. Mchombu is an authority on information and rural development in Africa; Ms. Kabugo is the District Liaison Officer for the Uganda AIDS Commission; Ms. Schoombee is a librarian and researcher at the University of South Africa; and Mr. Modou Fall Sall directs the Information and Documentation Center/African AIDS Research Network in Dakar, Senegal. Together they will examine the information realities facing library and information professionals in Sub-Saharan Africa regarding HIV/AIDS.

The panel will discuss the role of libraries in the dissemination of HIV/AIDS information. Questions will be addressed including: What lessons can be learned from the successes that have been reported in Sub-Saharan Africa that might be attributed to the role of information, education, and communication in the prevention of HIV/AIDS? What role does or should technology play in a society based on oral tradition? In what ways does the oral tradition facilitate the flow of information within African societies? What are the differences in approach to information dissemination across cultures in Africa? Is it possible to translate information into behavior change? Are there other areas of information awareness that we should target besides prevention?

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