Photo: The prestigious BR Studios in Mumbai, India generously offered both their studio space and the expertise of their professional staff to record Imran Khan’s voice for the Hindi and English versions of the TeachAIDS animations.
It costs $2,000,000 to create a single episode of The Simpsons, an animated sitcom of similar length to the TeachAIDS animated tutorials. To create the same high-quality products as commercial endeavors and then distribute them for free under our Creative Commons License, we rely on the generosity of countless individuals and organizations who are invested in creating localized versions of the educational materials for their communities.

Last year, we announced the development of 8 new versions of the TeachAIDS animations for India, featuring a humbling selection of 16 cultural icons who took time out of their busy schedules to record their voices for free. At each of these sessions, local recording studios and television stations donated their services and support to ensure we had the best quality equipment while minimizing costs significantly. Working with these trained professionals, we were able to gather all of the materials we needed over the span of a few months.

In Odisha, we recorded all four of our Odia cultural icons at the esteemed studio, Sur Vibrations, in Bhubaneswar. The leading television station, OTV, sent over their crew to record the behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive interviews with each of the celebrities. In Tamil Nadu, we split our time across Chennai, recording at both the acclaimed Rajiv Menon Productions and Mani Ratnam’s Madras Talkies. Even with short notice, Vijaya TV arrived to ensure we recorded the requisite footage. In Karnataka, we spent a few days at Balaji Digi Studios in Bangalore, then returned to Andhra Pradesh and the globally-recognized Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad to work with the stars between their other shootings. The popular MAA TV, which has previously aired the Telugu animations, supported our video efforts for both the Tamil and Telugu language versions. And the most recent icon to join our team, beloved Bollywood star Imran Khan, recorded his voice for the Hindi and English language versions at the prestigious BR Studios in Mumbai.

With our team traveling tirelessly back and forth across India, we appreciated the talent of these partners in connecting us to the highest caliber resources in each state. This support is critical to the new educational animations we are developing to address more than 100 million people nationwide.

Photo: The prestigious BR Studios in Mumbai, India generously offered both their studio space and the expertise of their professional staff to record Imran Khan’s voice for the Hindi and English versions of the TeachAIDS animations.
Like many countries, Namibia implements widespread AIDS education efforts. However, this does not always translate into people getting tested to know their status and help halt the spread of HIV. One public health educator, Havelinus N. Shemuketa, wanted to understand what factors might be contributing to low testing rates in his community.

Shemuketa conducted an independent research project in Windhoek, Namibia to take a closer look at people’s willingness and ability to get tested and to empower youth to know their status. His efforts are particularly relevant as HIV prevalence in Namibia is high, with approximately 13.1 percent of the adult population currently living with HIV and AIDS.

To promote HIV testing and better understand the challenges that youth face in Namibia, Shemuketa introduced advocacy and learning sessions at the Shipena Secondary School, situated in the impoverished suburb of Katutura within Windhoek. Shemuketa shared TeachAIDS and other materials with 23 young volunteers aged 15 to 24 years old. He aimed to increase the level of knowledge of HIV and AIDS among students, elevate risk perceptions, and develop a strategy to create demand for counseling and testing services at schools.

Common belief in Namibia assumes that students in Namibian schools lack basic knowledge of HIV and AIDS; however, Shemuketa found that a significant percentage of students at the Shipena Secondary School are knowledgeable about the disease, but reluctant to get tested because of discrimination and negative stigma that still surrounds HIV in their community. The students believed that once a person has been diagnosed with HIV, or is simply seen visiting a HIV testing facility, he or she will feel ashamed or be mocked by peers and this may lead to him or her to drop out of school.

One of the participants told Shemuketa, “You are always scared because…you think you are HIV positive…you feel ashamed of yourself…you can’t even breathe…you feel unhappy.” Additionally, despite the relatively high level of HIV and AIDS knowledge, Shemuketa found that several misconceptions about HIV and AIDS remain in the community.

As part of these educational efforts, the TeachAIDS software was used in addition to the TeachAIDS Educator Handbook to demonstrate the basics of HIV transmission and prevention. The TeachAIDS materials were supplemented by other resources on basic HIV facts. The sessions were interactive, allowing discussions to flow freely and provide a space for participants to ask questions.

By the end, it was evident that issues discouraging young people from being tested for HIV and AIDS are powerful and persistent, including fear of testing positive, fear of discrimination, low perception of risk, poor attitudes toward HIV testing in school, and lack of support from family and friends. However, after the day's activities, student perceptions about HIV changed dramatically. The students noted that the sessions were very informative and empowering, particularly the TeachAIDS materials. They also established an ongoing club called Youth Health and Development to advocate for increased knowledge of HIV status among fellow students and promoting universal access to HIV services.

After participating in the TeachAIDS session, one student noted, “I learnt that people who are infected with HIV and those who are not infected are equal and we should show each other love and respect.” Another student stated that HIV testing is important, “so that they can prevent the spread of HIV to their partners and they can get treatment before the virus destroys the immune system.”

Shemuketa concluded that with improved knowledge of HIV and by addressing specific barriers to counseling and testing, Namibia will succeed in improving knowledge and health among youth.

“Practically as a public health educator, I believed that once young people are educated on the basics of HIV and AIDS, they will automatically understand and get tested. But this was not the case. Through this action research, I learnt that there are a number of factors preventing young people in school from being tested for HIV. Nevertheless, I am very confident that if the service provision improves towards addressing the barriers, needs and fears that young people are experiencing, Namibia will succeed [in] increasing knowledge of HIV status among young people in school, hence advancing the agenda of universal access to prevention, treatment and care.” – Havelinus N. Shemuketa

TeachAIDS supports the efforts of community leaders like Shemuketa who dig deeper to understand the local factors that contribute to health behaviors, and commends his efforts to educate and empower Namibian youth about the risks associated with HIV and AIDS.
Tata Steel, a subsidiary of the globally respected Tata Group, has joined the TeachAIDS efforts as a financial sponsor for the Odia language version of the TeachAIDS software. Originating out of eastern India, Tata Steel currently operates in 26 countries with a local presence in over 50. Notably, much of their manufacturing continues to be based in Odisha, India, where Tata Steel has a long-standing commitment to contribute to the development of the state.

Aligned with this, Tata Steel has partnered with TeachAIDS to invest in the health and wellbeing of the people in Odisha through the creation of culturally-appropriate HIV prevention materials. Customized for the state in their most spoken language, these educational tools will feature the donated voices and animated likenesses of renowned local cultural icons Prashanta Nanda, Aruna Mohanty, Anu Choudhury, and Akash Das Nayak (male preview | female preview).

The state government’s official entity, the Orissa State AIDS Control Society, has formally approved the TeachAIDS animations and pledged to distribute the final versions throughout the state (pop. ~41MM). Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has also endorsed the materials, and recorded a special “Message of Hope” for the youth of Odisha to be incorporated into the software.

“Odisha is one of the states in India that is known as a hot zone for this disease. Unfortunately, due to the stigma attached, infected persons are not reaching out for basic help. Therefore, we must come together as a state to educate our people about AIDS… As the TeachAIDS animation says, 'let’s work together' to spread the message on HIV prevention!”
– Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha

India has the third largest HIV-positive population in the world, and the TeachAIDS epidemiologists have identified 16 languages, including Odia, to address more than 1 billion people nationwide. Within India, the state of Odisha has been identified as one of the few states where HIV rates are still on the rise, with the Ganjam district having the highest HIV prevalence rate in the state. The national government has recognized Odisha as a highly vulnerable state, identifying it as a region where prevention effects will be particularly impactful.

Tata Steel is considered one of the top ten steel manufacturers worldwide, with work spanning five continents. Established over 100 years ago, they have been recognized multiple times as one of the most trusted and valued brands in India. A Fortune 500 company, they have received numerous awards and recognitions for their work, including, most recently, the Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises (MAKE) Award in recognition of their role as pioneers in their industry. They have funded numerous efforts in the Odisha community, including support for the Lifeline Express mobile hospital services, financial assistance to students who qualify for their Jyoti Fellowship, and an immediate response to the devastating Cyclone Phailin this past October.

TeachAIDS admires Tata Steel’s continued dedication to the welfare of Odisha, joining other esteemed institutions such as Barclays Bank, Cigna, and Yahoo! in funding the most effective and culturally sensitive HIV prevention for the communities in which they work.

Actress and activist, Ms. Amala Akkineni, joins the Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) education team at one of their showings of the TeachAIDS animations at Zilla Parishad Government High School, a government school in Hyderabad, India. Since 2011, APSACS has been using the TeachAIDS materials to educate young people across thousands of schools in the state.
“The TeachAIDS materials are amazing. If you come to one of the viewings, you'll see how the children are glued to the television. They get it so fast because the material is fantastic. Even the teachers need to know, so the teachers are there listening and watching the whole thing, and they're so informed. Those children will never forget, they'll be empowered for the rest of their lives. I wish there was something like this when I was growing up.” - Amala Akkineni

Passionate about improving social welfare, actress-turned-activist Amala Akkineni is committed to causes ranging from animal welfare, environment issues, child welfare, women’s empowerment, and HIV education. TeachAIDS is honored to welcome Akkineni as a Trustee of TeachAIDS India Trust.

Akkineni was already deeply concerned about HIV and AIDS in India when she first connected with TeachAIDS in 2009. The state of Andhra Pradesh was roiled in debate, with the front pages of newspapers reporting the expulsion of HIV-positive children from schools. As a spokesperson for the Freedom Foundation and an Ambassador for the Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society, Akkineni was invited to participate in the public debates, speaking with the media, school officials, NGOs, and parents. Through this, she realized the root cause of the negativity and fear was limited understanding about how HIV was transmitted. She also discovered the national government’s education materials had been deemed too explicit for youth, and even banned across many Indian states.

Shortly after the public debates, she met Dr. Piya Sorcar, founder and CEO of TeachAIDS, in Hyderabad, India. Akkineni said, “I was emotionally drained after the debates, trying to convince parents that their children were growing up in a world with HIV and what better way to learn about transmission than prevention for oneself, and compassion for others.  Meeting Piya was amazing. She had all the answers to the problems we had faced at the debate with cultural sensitivity. It was cosmic that it all came together right to our doorstep. I knew the Universe was watching over those kids.”

Recognizing the power of the TeachAIDS materials, and despite her action-packed schedule, Akkineni joined the TeachAIDS efforts in India to support the development of several localized Indian language versions of the animated tutorials, starting with the Telugu and Indian English versions for Andhra Pradesh. Akkineni was the opening speaker at the TeachAIDS press launch event, calling attention to the need for basic HIV education. The animated software was later distributed into schools and counseling centers across the state and showed on television multiple times (2011 | 2012).

“It is reassuring to know that every child in Andhra Pradesh now has access to very sound education materials at a vulnerable age. We hope to bring this same basic knowledge to children across our country, and throughout the world," said Akkineni.

As a beloved and multitalented icon in Indian cinema, Akkineni starred in more than 50 films across 5 Indian languages before the age of 25, including a Filmfare Awards South for Best Actress. In 1992, at the peak of her career, she left the film industry to devote herself full time to the betterment of society, co-founding the reputable animal welfare NGO Blue Cross of Hyderabad with her husband, renowned actor Nagarjuna Akkineni. In 2012, she briefly returned to the screen in Life is Beautiful, for which she received critical acclaim and popular awards, including a CineMAA Award for Best Outstanding Actress and a Filmfare Awards South for Best Supporting Actress.

Akkineni shared, “TeachAIDS solved the puzzle of how to bring a very serious subject into the minds of our children through the use of celebrities, among other key elements. Celebrities are famous and successful for a reason. They have this inherent charm, talent, and skill to make something very serious become exciting and interesting. I think this is why our children are glued to the television watching and wanting to know more. It’s impressive and highly commendable to see dozens of top celebrities across India come together to help drive the TeachAIDS mission forward.”

Along with serving as Chairperson of Blue Cross, Akkineni is on the Board of Greenpeace India, an Ambassador for Nobel Laureate Al Gore’s The Climate Project - India, the official celebrity spokesperson for Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation, and an Ambassador for UNICEF - India. In 2005, she worked alongside Richard Gere, and a number of other Indian celebrities, on the ‘A Time for Heroes’ campaign aimed to further sensitize the Indian press on issues related to properly reporting HIV and AIDS in the media.

The TeachAIDS mission benefits tremendously from the experience and passion Ms. Amala Akkineni brings to her role as a Trustee. Aligned with the Indian government’s recently announced Phase IV of their National AIDS Control Programme to continue their commitment to reversing the national epidemic, we look forward to creating new culturally-appropriate materials to address millions of people across India by providing education and combating stigma and discrimination.

Photo: Actress and activist, Ms. Amala Akkineni, joins the Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS) education team at one of their showings of the TeachAIDS animations at Zilla Parishad Government High School, a government school in Hyderabad, India. Since 2011, APSACS has been using the TeachAIDS materials to educate young people across thousands of schools in the state.
SchoolNet Uganda screens the TeachAIDS animation for students in Uganda.
Like other resource-limited countries, Uganda faces educational barriers with sparse access to computers, projectors, and even electricity in their schools. However, one organization is committed to supporting Uganda’s teachers and administrators to overcome such challenges by providing technology and training in these communities.

SchoolNet Uganda, a program started in 1997 and supported by the World Links for Development Programme, recognizes the importance of empowering educators and schools to utilize available technological resources despite limitations. They provide affordable computers and support the introduction of  Information Communication Technology (ICT) into schools along with offering professional development training sessions on how to use the ICT resources effectively. The interactive TeachAIDS software fits perfectly into this mission of incorporating ICT education into the curriculum.

In order to effectively impart this information, SchoolNet Uganda hosted a workshop for principals and secondary school teachers covering issues around sex education, including AIDS education. They held a screening of the TeachAIDS materials and provided each principal with a copy of the  CD-ROM to take back to their respective schools. According to SchoolNet Uganda’s Training Director, Daniel Kakinda, many of principals and educators shared their thoughts on how TeachAIDS could be relevant to their schools.

Bugobi High School Principal Opio Gresom said, “The ideas connected to HIV and AIDS; how it is acquired up to how it can be avoided have been brought out in a way that is motivating to anyone to listen to and keeps the person expecting to see the next step. … It is quite a good piece for school teaching of the facts of life and especially to the youth who easily get tired when something goes on talking for a long time.”

Principals appreciated the TeachAIDS’ multimedia as “comprehensive,” “catchy,” and “youth-friendly.” They considered the animations culturally appropriate, bringing the message closer to the African community. Head teacher John Balanga from the Nabukala Secondary School in Bugiri noted that the TeachAIDS material was “very good, especially when handling such technical areas / topics on HIV/AIDS.”  Musasizi Micheal from St. Peter’s College in Buweera noted that the “tutorials are so youth-friendly; they attract maximum audience from the young people.”

In addition, SchoolNet Uganda provides sex education to secondary schools and runs an online support center, where students can get more information and post questions about issues related to sexual health and HIV and AIDS. Even when only one computer is available, teachers and school administrators can share the TeachAIDS message with students. SchoolNet Uganda’s Training Director, Daniel Kakinda, has also held training sessions for student peer educators, finding the TeachAIDS materials useful when he works with youth.

TeachAIDS is pleased to support efforts to integrate information technology into the classroom, and empower students with information to prevent HIV and AIDS.

Photo: SchoolNet Uganda screens the TeachAIDS animation for students in Uganda.