Tenth grade students engaging in TeachAIDS materials as part of HIV prevention workshop in Guyana

After her freshman year at Stanford, Riasoya Jodah returned to her home in Guyana with a desire to make a difference. She spent the summer working at Georgetown Public Hospital as a recipient of the Halper International Fellowship from Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service.

As an assistant in the pediatric surgery department, Ria performed pre- and post-operative tasks and observed surgeries in the operating room. She also worked with Baby Heart, an international team that trains local doctors to perform cardiac surgeries. Ria took initiative to spread HIV education to young people outside her daily work after discovering TeachAIDS through a friend. She chose to engage with high school students in Mahaica, a rural region north of her hometown in Georgetown, because of her previous experience with the region and her potential to impact attitudes there.

“I had spent weekends growing up on a family farm in Mahaica, and knew that topics like HIV and AIDS were taboo in the culture there, but early marriages and teenage pregnancies were not uncommon,” Ria explained about her reasons for choosing this region. She described the people of Mahaica as “one big family” where neighbors know each other well and care deeply about community well-being. The close-knit nature of the region makes it easy to forge connections, but difficult to discuss taboo subjects like HIV and AIDS.

Ria worked with a group of 20 tenth-grade students at Bygeval Secondary School using a projector to screen the Indian English TeachAIDS animation for the group. Before showing the video, Ria led the class in a game called Cross the Line (from the TeachAIDS Educator Handbook) during which students crossed an invisible line in the center of the classroom if they agreed with different statements.

“The questions progressed from very light questions like ‘cross the line if you wear glasses’ to ‘cross the line if you would share a room with someone who is infected with HIV/AIDS’ and finally to ‘cross the line if you are afraid of HIV/AIDS.’ Some misconceptions were identified and everyone in the room got a bit more comfortable with each other and the idea of talking about AIDS,” Ria explained. She noted that the students had several misconceptions about HIV, including that you could get HIV from sleeping in the same room or sharing food with an infected individual.

After the game, the class viewed the animation and engaged in a discussion facilitated by Ria. She noted that the students responded positively to the animation, which features celebrities Amitabh Bachchan and Imran Khan, because many people in Mahaica watch Indian films and are familiar with these actors’ work.

Ria said the experience made her aware of the difficulties surrounding HIV education in Guyana. According to UNAIDS, HIV prevalence in Guyana has decreased due to increased government attention since the early 2000s, but stigma and misinformation still impede access to care. Sustained attention is needed to address these barriers and continue to decrease HIV prevalence, currently at 1.5 percent.

“I was initially worried that the students would be too shy, and the material would be too basic, but I realised that there are still large general misconceptions about HIV/AIDS which can go unaddressed. TeachAIDS helped to create a comfortable learning environment where students were not only able to learn, but they were able to relate to the idea of HIV/AIDS,” Ria said.

We applaud Ria’s efforts along with others such as Jocelyn Friedman, a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, also educating children in Guyana on HIV prevention efforts. It is such leadership efforts which inspires others to take action and empower one another.

The 2016 class of of Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems delivered their final presentations Google's Mountain View campus

"If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes." - Albert Einstein

As the major case study in Dr. Piya Sorcar’s Stanford University course entitled Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems, TeachAIDS is currently featured on the Stanford University Centre for African Studies (CAS) Website. Along with the Haas Center, The Tech Museum, and several other organizations, CAS is a generous supporter of the class, and TeachAIDS is honored to partner with this important institution to develop and deliver an annual course that offers students insight into the strategies behind some of the most successful social ventures in the world.

Based on the premise that students have the passion and skills needed to make meaningful contributions to the fields of social entrepreneurship and global health, but sometimes lack the tools to apply their skills, a key theme of the course is learning to ask the right questions.  Consistent with Einstein’s lauded approach of thoroughly understanding the problem before developing a solution, students are supported to reflect on community needs, cultural contexts, evidence based design and continuous evaluation. “No single size fits all when it comes to health solutions… Dr. Sorcar taught me to look beyond the technical specs and focus on the needs of the people we serve,” noted a 2016 class member with a background in Electrical Engineering.

The course, now in it’s fourth year, has more than 150 alumni. Class participants have included undergraduate and graduate students from backgrounds as diverse as engineering, human biology, business and international relations – all with a formidable drive to change the world and a passion for social entrepreneurship.  A 2015 education graduate student alumni neatly summed the alignment between the aims of the course and the goals of its students, lauding Dr. Sorcar’s success in “tapping into and advancing the idealism of Stanford students to address persistent problems in health and education across the globe”.

The course culminates in a group project in which students evaluate a social venture that has won Silicon Valley’s prestigious Tech Award, The Tech Museum’s signature program that honors laureates who have found ways to utilize technologies benefiting humanity. The findings of these projects are presented to an evaluated by a panel of multidisciplinary experts, including representatives of major technology organizations, the Stanford Medical School, philanthropic organizations and international NGOs. A 2016 class participant majoring Human Biology recounted being “pushed to challenge ‘easy’ ways of categorizing the world, and instead embrace how messy, complicated, and tangled the world is –and then find a way to make my own sense of it,”, observing that the class reflects the real world in that success is possible only through hard work, determination and thoroughly understanding problems before identifying a solution.

TeachAIDS joins CAS in congratulating the 2016 class of Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems. You brought with you the passion, ideas and creativity needed to change the world for the better. We hope you left with the skills and tools you need to make these dreams a reality. As you embark on the next steps of your journey, we hope you will join us in drawing inspiration from Albert Einstein: only through asking the right questions can you find the right solution.

The Centre for African Studies' feature on Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems can be found here.

Photo: The 2016 class of Designing Research-based Interventions to Solve Global Health Problems delivered their final presentations Google's Mountain View campus

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

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.

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.

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.