The Make Art / Stop AIDS project will train 15 college students on participatory arts techniques and sexual and reproductive health and rights in order to create art that will combat the high rate of HIV in southern Malawi. These college students will go on to train and mentor 150 secondary school students through the same process, as a part of the efforts to create an AIDS-free generation. Through interactive performances, these young people will reach thousands of their peers.
The prevalence rate of HIV in Malawi is nearly 10% and one of the highest worldwide. In 2016, an estimated 1 million people were living with HIV and 24,000 deaths were attributed to AIDS-related illnesses. Due to early sexual activity and marriage, young people are at particular risk. In 2016, one-third of all new HIV infections occurred among youth (ages 15-24), and 70% of those were among young women. In spite of increasing knowledge about HIV, condom use remains low.
Having direct conversations about sexual and reproductive health, HIV, and gender equity is uncomfortable, but using drama and the arts makes those conversations easier and more relatable. College students learn the technical information about these topics and how to create participatory art performances to engage audiences. These students then become leaders among secondary school students, sharing their knowledge and guiding them through these creative conversations with their peers.
College students and secondary school students become more aware of the ways that HIV is transmitted and how they can prevent future infections. They will also learn about other sexual and reproductive health and rights particularly with a gender equity lens, such as sexual harassment and consent. By becoming more comfortable with these topics, the youth will become more confident in having these conversations with their peers, contributing to social behaviour change.