Box 3.6

Respecting cultural sensitivities about wording

By Cheri Reid, Study Coordinator, The Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), Lusaka, Zambia

Before our community team started to speak openly about our microbicide trial at public meetings, we first needed to apologize for using words not considered “polite.” For example, it is not acceptable in our communities for younger women to speak to older women about sex, or for women to speak to men about sex. Yet, the topic of our research related to things that could not be said in mixed company, such as “vagina” and “anal sex.” So we had to say “private parts” for vagina, and pay attention to the cultural rules about what can be said to whom and how. We explained that we needed to use these words so that everyone understood what the research was really about.