At Art for AIDS International, our goal is to educate people about HIV and AIDS and encourage them to play an active and creative role in the global AIDS response through art. We do this by:
Engaging Young People
When Art for AIDS International was founded, it was clear that young people in many parts of the world lacked the voice and support to drive real change in the AIDS response. Despite this, it was clear that any effective change could only stem from the passion, energy, and creativity of young people. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who noticed:
Young people are the key in the fight against AIDS. By giving them the support they need, we can empower them to protect themselves against the virus. By giving them honest and straightforward information, we can break the circle of silence across all society. By creating effective campaigns for education and prevention, we can turn young people’s enthusiasm, drive and dreams for the future into powerful tools for tackling the epidemic. – Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General
To change this, we began hosting straightforward and engaging workshops with students that use a combination of fact-based knowledge sharing, experiential learning, peer-peer support, and art making to explore specific and sensitive aspects of risk and vulnerability, especially as they relate to HIV. During the workshops participants experience the therapeutic effects of creating original collage artwork. Each collage is then produced as original machine-made limited edition prints that are signed and numbered, and collaboratively make up a portfolio unique to that school.
Sharing the Work
After the portfolios are complete, the artwork is exhibited and sold in schools, and throughout the local and global community at special events, in galleries and museums, and online. During these events, many of which are run by young people, Art for AIDS International has an opportunity to multiply its message to reach the broader public, and sell the prints.
Supporting More Good Work
With the funds raised by hosting workshops, and selling prints, we are able to not only continue to host workshops with young people around the world, but support select initiatives directly that provide care and support for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS in some of the communities hardest hit by the epidemic throughout Africa.
The Future of Art for AIDS International
The Train the Trainer Project was established in hopes of forming relationships with post-secondary institutions, particularly in areas with a higher prevalence to HIV/AIDS. Our goal is to identify those who have an existing understanding of the community and equip these students to facilitate art-based social justice workshops under the umbrella of Art for AIDS International.
HIV infection rates are significantly higher among indigenous communities. Although they represent only 3.3% of the Canadian population, Aboriginal persons comprised 5-8% of prevalent infections (persons currently living with HIV infection in Canada) and 6-12% of new HIV infections in Canada in 2002. (Health Canada First Nations & Inuit Health: HIV and AIDS, 2012). The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network states: “Aboriginal youth are taking power in knowledge, collaboration and partnerships to lower the rates of HIV and AIDS Infections in Aboriginal communities. Aboriginal communities are resilient and strong. This strategy calls for the promotion of knowledge, peer education and the proper care, treatment and support for Aboriginal People living with HIV and AIDS.”
The Train the Trainer program will allow greater youth involvement in a culturally relevant format. Indigenous Canadians have a rich heritage of art, with deep significance. The training process will improve job-related skills, as well as provide necessary education to the youth on topics such as preventing discrimination, bullying and drug and alcohol abuse. The two pronged approach, focusing on skill development and education will enhance the experience of those youth who receive training.
“I’d rather have HIV than be pregnant.” I remember this as being a very real fear when I was in school in Uganda (E.Africa) but what surprised me was that Hendrikus Bervoets knew about this fear from his communication with students in Africa. It was a very real fear but one that I could never have said out loud to anyone because we just didn’t talk about such things. The fact that he understood this about the students showed that Art for AIDS International was getting young people to open up about HIV and AIDS and how this affected them.
The risk of acquiring HIV among young people in South Africa is 1 in 10 and yet when a survey was conducted 62% of the young people thought they were at little or no risk of acquiring HIV (AfroAidsInfo). Art for AIDS International in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg is trying to rectify this situation through training young people and teaching them about their personal risk of acquiring HIV and make personal plans to prevent disease. They are also providing the students with the tools to do something about HIV in their country by training them to speak to their peers about HIV and AIDS. Hopefully this will in turn make everyone that participates in the program more responsible and ultimately help reduce the spread of HIV in this age group.
-Dr. Brenda Ahimbisibwe, volunteer