The people of Botswana are no strangers to HIV and AIDS. In fact, more than one-fifth of adults living in the South African country are HIV positive. Young women living with HIV outnumber men by two to one.
But this may soon begin to change. We’re so excited to hear that our friends at TeachAIDS are working with the country in nationwide education efforts to effectively tackle the epidemic — in fact, it’s such a significant move that they’ve named June 15th “TeachAIDS Day.” In marking this historic day for both the TeachAIDS program and the nation, TEDxWomen speaker and TeachAIDS CEO Piya Sorcar penned a piece at The Huffington Post about these efforts and how they were birthed:
A few years ago, Botswana’s Ministry of Education reached out to TeachAIDS, which had recently spun out of Stanford University as a nonprofit, to tackle the issue of “HIV fatigue”. More than one-fifth of adults in Botswana are HIV positive, and their citizens had grown tired of the repetitive HIV messaging through billboards, television commercials, and pamphlets. Research also demonstrated that the fragmented messaging was ineffective at providing a fundamental understanding of the basics of HIV transmission.
The new initiative — to provide more engaging and also more effective HIV education –brought together key players like UNICEF and Stepping Stones International, along with Barclays, Yahoo!, and others. The resulting localized and culturally-appropriate TeachAIDS software featured the voices of national celebrities Scar, Zeus, Tref, and Jazzelle. Both male and female versions of the research-based, interactive software were produced in English and Setswana, the country’s official languages. The use of software allowed everyone in the country, especially those who were not well-versed in HIV-related issues, to provide consistent, medically-accurate education to all learners.
But it doesn’t end there. Former President Festus Mogae, Botswana’s Ministry of Education, the United States Peace Corps, and Stepping Stones International (SSI), came together with with local educators and administrators to implement the software in primary, secondary and tertiary schools, supplying it to medical facilities and staff, and is working with NGOs and corporations to bring it to more remote populations in the country. In short, these efforts are strong and aggressive.
We know well enough that the work of TeachAIDS is invaluable to HIV and AIDS advocacy, so we couldn’t be more excited about such an incredible milestone for Piya and the entire TeachAIDS family — as well as the people of Botswana. Here’s to the first of many countries — and lives — changed.