Translation: A Powerful Communication Tool in Dealing with the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

While a majority of the key actors involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS have integrated the term “global” into their mission, few are investing in the development of multilingual communications tools. With the rise of digital platforms, material such as the proceedings of the International AIDS conference that just took place in Durban can easily become available to an international audience. Yet, according to the FID review on HIV/AIDS and information, “most of the information that is provided is only available in English- a problem for the millions of interested parties who do not have command of this language”.

A tool to foster collaboration

In addition to facilitating access to information, translation can serve as a powerful tool to foster international scientific collaboration. The online collection of HIV/AIDS-related resources AIDSource offers multilingual research options, which shows the international scope of AIDS research. However, providing a thematic selection of abstracts from multilingual sources translated into English and then made available in other languages could help foster more collaboration and promote the work of experts from non-English speaking areas, where prevalence is high.

A tool to facilitate knowledge sharing 

A significant amount of resources is devoted to developing new campaigns and programs for the prevention of HIV. Yet, translating the resources that are already available into the languages used by the population that is the most at risk and into the official languages of the UN could help maximize impact at a relatively low cost.

Two projects related to microbicides and gender implemented by the nonprofit FHI360 and supported by USAID provide a good example of resources that could support international advocacy efforts on preventive treatment options if available in multiple languages.

A tool to raise awareness and mobilize resources

While using digital communications channels such as social media, blogging, YouTube, or coming up with a hashtag has become a necessary step to shed light on complex issue, it is not sufficient to achieve global impact. In a world of constant communication, too much emphasis is often put on finding an attractive message instead of focusing on the best way to communicate to the target audience. Integrating the use of translation in the development of a communication strategy will allow organizations to more effectively raise awareness and mobilize resources. This approach will also help them develop a global brand by going beyond translation and adapting content to different cultures. Nevertheless, creating a simple message that can be translated easily such as the Friends of the Global Fight’ #WhyNow campaign is a great start in ensuring the issue is exposed in terms that are easy to understand by all the parties involved.