Learning about HIV/AIDS in Uganda: Digital resources and language learner identities

Document Type



Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


While the HIV/AIDS epidemic has wrought havoc in the lives of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, access to information about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of the disease remains a challenge for many, and particularly for young people. This article reports on an action research study undertaken in a rural Ugandan village in 2006. Twelve English language learners, all of whom were young women, participated in this study. The focus was a digital literacy course that sought to help the participants gain access to information about HIV/AIDS through global health Web sites available in English, Uganda's official language. Our conceptual framework is drawn from theories of investment and imagined identities in the field of language education, and our central questions are twofold: (1) What were the learners’ investments in the language practices of the digital literacy course? (2) What was the relationship between the learners’ investments in the course and their identities? Our findings suggest that the learners’ multiple investments in the digital literacy course derived not only from the significance of HIV/AIDS to their lives, but also from the opportunity to appropriate a range of imagined identities that offered enhanced possibilities for the future.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The Canadian Modern Language Review