Fighting HIV/AIDS with Literacy - CODE and World AIDS Day

November 30, 2009

In recognition of World AIDS Day, Catherine Macnab, CODE Program Manager for Mozambique, writes about the impact of literacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Fighting HIV/AIDS with Literacy

CODE supported AID books Lolita and Maria ask: 'What is AIDS?'

Approximately 95% of the world’s people living with HIV/AIDS, and 98% of the world’s people who cannot read and write live in developing countries1. Literacy is recognized worldwide as a determinant of health. Low literacy limits peoples’ ability to make informed choices and to secure employment and adequate income. Poverty is a risk factor for HIV infection.

Low literacy is a major barrier preventing people from accessing accurate HIV/AIDS information and prevention services because so much health information is shared through printed materials. People who cannot read are more likely to rely on word of mouth and, as a result, to make decisions based on inaccurate or incorrect information. Low literacy may affect people’s overall health knowledge and can make it difficult for them to remember and understand instructions. For people on AIDS treatment, this misunderstanding can lead to lethal misuse of medications. 

Women now make up half the number of people infected with HIV; they shoulder the burden of AIDS care for their families and communities, and they make up two thirds of the world’s illiterate population. Promoting female literacy is an important tool for increasing the wellbeing of women and children. 

CODE works with partners to provide HIV information in our programs that support libraries, teacher training and local book publishing. Special HIV/AIDS initiatives include:

  • Providing teachers with skills in HIV counseling, prevention and awareness-raising
  • Helping teachers provide age-appropriate information to children on HIV prevention
  • Supporting publication of storybooks and other materials
  • Supporting radio programs, pamphlets, posters and articles on HIV/AIDS
  • Promoting resource exchange between partners

1 2001. SIL.

For more information on HIV and AIDS visit: