Blog
Photo: Tibetan public health stakeholders from communities across India, Nepal and Bhutan viewing the Tibetan language TeachAIDS HIV education materials
11
JUN
2016

When his His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s expressed concerns about the deteriorating situation of Tibetan public health, the Central TIbetan Administration (CTA) Department of Health sprang into action.

As part of immediate efforts to revitalize Tibetan preventive health care, a “special meeting to improve and strengthen the overall public health services, disease prevention and hospital administration of the Tibetan community” was arranged. Sikyong (Prime Minister) Dr. Lobsang Sangay opened the meeting, which was held in Dharamsala, India.

In his inaugural remarks, Dr. Sangay explained that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had noticed an increase in the number of patients with chronic diseases in settlements and monasteries across the Tibetan community in exile. “He said that these are a result of neglect towards preventive healthcare and advised me to work on these issues,” Sikyong recounted, adding that His Holiness expressed great appreciation that the workshop was taking place.

Over 150 health leaders and advocates travelled from their homes-in-exile across India, Bhutan and Nepal for the meeting. Organizations represented included the CTA Department of Health; Monastery hospitals and health centers; Allopathic medical clinics; the TIbetan Medical Astro Institute; and NGOs including the Snow Lion Foundation, Tibet Charity and Norbulingka.

The Tibetan language TeachAIDS HIV software was shown at the meeting in order to equip public health stakeholders with the knowledge and skills required to educate community members on how to prevent the transmission of this condition. The materials feature respected physician Dr. Tsetan Dorji Sadutshang as the sage doctor and beloved musician Namgyal T. Phurbu as the inquisitive student; and have been endorsed by Dr. Sangay, Health Kalon (Minister) Dr. Tsering Wangchuk and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Dr. Wangchuk noted that the TeachAIDS materials offer an unparalleled opportunity to curb the spread of HIV in the Tibetan population, which has increased substantially amongst the Tibetan diaspora in recent years. “We have not, until now, had the tools to resist is the growing risk of HIV in our community. There is no cure, but with the right knowledge we can prevent HIV”, he said.  Dr. Sangay concurred, noting, “we have learned that the single best way to stop the spread of HIV is through education”.

In addition to being showcased at this historical health prevention and treatment meeting, 10,000 copies of the Tibetan language software will be distributed to clinics, schools and hospitals in Tibetan communities throughout India, Nepal and Bhutan, as well as inside Tibet.

Dr. Sangay urged meeting participants to “utilise your experience and knowledge of the issue to strengthen Tibetan public health”.  TeachAIDS is proud to be a part of the revitalization of the Tibetan public health system, and joins Sikyong Sangay in encouraging health stakeholders around the world to ensure that high quality public health education is available to all.

Photo: Tibetan public health stakeholders from communities across India, Nepal and Bhutan viewing the Tibetan language TeachAIDS HIV education materials

The Innovation Enterprise Strategic Transformation Award was presented at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
21
MAY
2016

TeachAIDS is delighted to announce that we have been recognized by The Innovation Enterprise with the 2016 Strategic Transformation Award. This award is presented to an organization that embodies “a transformation of common outdated practices” and engenders “incredible cultural shifts”.

TeachAIDS was selected for our “exceptional efforts in strengthening business performance and growth” and “triumphs of 2016”, including the release of the Tibetan Language HIV education materials, ongoing expansion across India, and the continued distribution of high quality health education software around the world.

Winners were announced at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit and Chief Strategy Officer Summit at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Rebecca Thomson, International Events Director of Innovation Enterprise, noted that the 2016 award nominees were extremely strong. “We were very impressed with the thought and dedication put into creating this year’s high quality entries, which made selecting just one winner for each category incredibly difficult”.

The innovative approach for which TeachAIDS was recognized involves the development of high quality, evidence-based health education materials that are made available for free to all.  Designed to teach users how to protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV and to reduce the stigmas associated with this condition, the software is developed for linguistically diverse regions, including technologically-preliterate rural areas. Each of the 27 language versions in 13 unique languages  is culturally-sensitive, medically-accurate and pedagogically-grounded.

The award committee comprised of the Innovation Enterprise Strategy & Innovation Advisory Board, which consists of high-level executives working across areas of strategy and innovation at numerous Fortune 500 companies, including McCain FoodsDisneyBNP ParibasDiageoHilton and many more.

TeachAIDS is honored to accept this prestigious award. We thank the award committee for their kind recognition of our innovative approach to health education. We intend to continue to innovate this field to provide high quality health education to those who need it most around the world.

Photo: The Innovation Enterprise Strategic Transformation Award was presented at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
21
APR
2016

Sexual contact accounts for over 80% of reported AIDS cases in Chile, yet cultural norms prevent open discussion of sexual behaviors.  Misconceptions about HIV transmission modes are therefore entrenched at every level of society.  In some instances, Health Workers have been found to have inaccurate or incomplete knowledge of HIV transmission, while various forms of media have presented contradictory and confusing HIV prevention messages.

Until recently, the limited sexual education provided in Chilean schools compounded this issue. Where sexual education was available, it focused almost exclusively on abstinence, perpetuating cultural stigmas related to HIV and enabling misinformation to continue to flourish.

Recognizing that a multi-sector approach is critical to reducing the incidence of HIV transmission, the Chilean Government signed the UNESCO Preventing through Education Declaration  by which it has committed to reduce by 75% the number of public schools that have not institutionalized comprehensive sexual education.

In partnership with the Chilean Ministry of Education, the Center of Integral Sexual Education (CESI), a private organization dedicated to improving access to sexual education and psychological counseling in schools throughout Chile, has rigorously taken up this challenge.

Daniel Seguel, Regional Coordinator of CESI, notes that CESI’s HIV mandate includes providing “deep learning of HIV transmission”, in addition to the more broadly-available awareness education. He reports that CESI has integrated the TeachAIDS Spanish language materials into the programs it delivers to classrooms across Chile “in order to make available high quality materials and comprehensive education”.

Noting that the limited knowledge of teachers and cultural stigmas had previously been major stumbling blocks in providing such comprehensive HIV education. CESI Lead Psychologist Maria Sandoval notes, “We teach the teachers so that they can better teach their students.  Previously, teachers felt uncomfortable and disempowered when it came to presenting HIV education, so it is very good to have a tool that allows them to present this information through a reputable third party. This is a big step, and teachers are very thankful.”

Mr. Seguel and Ms. Sandoval proudly site numerous successes of the CESI-TeachAIDS partnership. They note that the materials were recently shared with teachers in the communes of Doñihue and Peralillo, in which talking about the sexual transmission of disease has historically been taboo. With the TeachAIDS materials, hundreds of families in this community will receive the information they need to protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV.

The importance of sexual education in multi-sector approaches to reducing the transmission of HIV cannot be underestimated. We applaud the Government of Chile for taking steps to make this education available, and thank CESI for empowering teachers to approach the complex and important subject of sexual education.  Along with other nonprofit organizations around the world, including United Way of Hyderabad , Action for the Needy, and Children of Grace, CESI is leading the way in providing life-saving comprehensive HIV education to those who need it most.

15
MAR
2016

Bethany’s laptop was teeming with ants by the end of her stay in Vang Vieng, Laos.  Bethany had been volunteering with Fruit Friends, a nonprofit enterprise that works hand-in-hand with remote villagers to provide educational, agricultural and entrepreneurial opportunities.  She quickly learned that insects were part of the daily life - including a protein rich element of the diet - of the Laotian people.

Having heard about TeachAIDS through family, Bethany had been determined to provide HIV education to her colleagues in Laos since her arrival. Aware that her computer was unlikely to survive more than a few days longer, she quickly tuned into the TeachAIDS YouTube channel.

Bethany screened the female Indian-English language version of the TeachAIDS tutorials for the business manager, house manager, and interns of Fruit Friends, among other staff members.  Through the animations, she was able to assist her colleagues to answer some of their own pressing questions about HIV, including whether sharing razor blades and cooking knives can increase a person’s risk of HIV. Bethany noted that her colleagues were very happy to have the opportunity to discuss HIV. “They had so many questions and they had not had an opportunity to ask anyone these questions before. HIV is not something that is commonly discussed in Laos,” she observed, “but being aware of basic HIV facts in order to steer clear of contracting the infection is very important”.

Although Laos is classified as a low HIV prevalence country, the HIV infection is rapidly increasing, with remote areas particularly vulnerable to this disease.  Many villages are so remote that it takes several days to reach them by foot, and they are completely cut off from the outside world during the wet season. Along with stigmas that preclude the open discussion of HIV, these conditions makes providing targeting HIV education is extremely difficult.

Realizing that the Fruit Friends staff are very well placed to deliver HIV education to the villages with which they work, Bethany saw an important opportunity to equip them with the knowledge they need to empower villagers to protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV.

“Fruit Friends staff are well respected and well liked, so they are the perfect conduit to spark this discussion across the villages in which they work”

We applaud Bethany and our partners at Fruit Friends and other organizations like The Samburu Girls Foundation, Action for the Needy, and the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust who are simultaneously inducing change in their local communities and elevating their commitment to HIV prevention efforts worldwide. Their dedication leads them to overcome challenges such as a lack of electricity, cultural stigmas and even plagues of ants to make this possible.

Photo: Bethany (far right) delivered HIV education to the staff of Fruit Friends

HIV awareness remains low in Bolivia, while stigma surrounding this condition is pervasive
24
FEB
2016

Stanford student Jill Huckels was baffled to see a child refusing to take his daily HIV medication on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia. The young boy had contracted HIV perinatally but been kept unaware of his HIV status by his parents to prevent the bullying and discrimination that typically follow a diagnosis of HIV. Consequently, he was unable to grasp the importance of the medications he was encouraged to take daily, and risked serious deterioration of his health.

Jill noted that the lack of HIV knowledge, and the stigma associated with this condition, is pervasive throughout Bolivia and likely contributes to the increasing incidence of HIV infection in many communities throughout this country.  With this in mind, on a recent Impact Abroad service-learning trip she and seven of her classmates endeavored to promote sexual health education in Cochabamba. Aiming to spark a conversation that would be highly informative while reducing the stigma associated with HIV, they implemented a suite of programs designed to engage all members of the community.

Having been introduced to the TeachAIDS materials through TeachAIDS Founder and CEO Dr. Piya Sorcar’s Research-Based Interventions in Global Health class at Stanford University, Jill was eager to integrate the animated tutorials into their sexual health education program. She and her team partnered with the Bolivian chapter of La Casa de Los Niños, which seeks to promote the education, recovery and reintegration of disadvantaged and children through community outreach programs. Together, they were able to reach over eighty children who were afflicted with disease, separated from their parents, or displaced from their homes.

“These children have endured homelessness, violence, abuse, and abandonment. We aimed to give them hope that there is something they can actively do about their health,” Jill shared.

The eagerness of the children to learn about HIV led Jill to and her classmates coordinated two movie nights to screen the video versions of the TeachAIDS software for the broader community. As they planned these events, they faced major resource constraints. Unwilling to allow these challenges to prevent the dissemination of this important information, Jill created an intimate theater using a projector and a white blanket to accommodate parents and their young ones on the first night and teenagers on the second. “The movie screenings were crucial in instigating a community-wide dialogue on HIV,” Jill explains, “and the children could hardly contain their excitement during the animations.”

Jill and her team did not stop there. They initiated a sexual health fair in a community park, and facing even greater resource constraints, displayed the TeachAIDS tutorial for dozens of children on a laptop.  The children crowded around the makeshift fifteen-inch cinema and avidly shouted answers to the questions posed in ‘Doctors Challenge’ section of the animation.

Jill is optimistic that despite the stigma and lack of awareness associated with HIV, the national discussion required to combat HIV is possible. She noted that “this is the decade where Bolivians, for the first time, are willing to hear about HIV.”

We applaud the efforts of Jill and her Stanford classmates in taking these creative and meaningful steps towards making HIV education available in a nation acutely affected by HIV. The Stanford community nurtured TeachAIDS in its earliest days, and incredibly dedicated Stanford professors, students, and student groups continue to be critical partners in propagating TeachAIDS HIV prevention education materials throughout the world.

Photo:  HIV awareness remains low in Bolivia, while stigma surrounding this condition is pervasive