Blog
01
JUN
2015

In her book Insight Out, Stanford professor Tina Seelig explores how entrepreneurs worldwide have transformed their visions into reality. Analyzing several businesses, Seelig’s work examines the genesis of TeachAIDS as an organization.

Seelig captures how TeachAIDS drove experimentation with inspiration to develop effective products and processes alike. Motivated by the misconceptions about HIV in India, TeachAIDS tested over 500 iterations of its product, including storyboards, scripts, animation clips, with a team of interdisciplinary Stanford experts. The rigor of developing the materials only intensified when it came time to compose the cross-cultural translations — each line had to be translated back-and-forth numerous times to ensure that the animations’ messages would be culturally sensitive, yet unambiguous. Finally, once the research elements were confirmed, TeachAIDS introduced its interactive materials to scores of celebrities, readjusting engagement strategies with each unique partnership. This network funneled TeachAIDS materials through every avenue of society, especially those that needed them the most.

To further illustrate the importance of experimentation within the greater cycle of invention, Seelig outlines the birth of the non-profit Khan Academy, a free online learning platform used by an average of 12 million people each month. Like the staff at TeachAIDS, Khan Academy founder Sal Khan also underwent a series of experiments to finesse both his pedagogical and technical approach to creating educational materials, Seelig writes. And, like TeachAIDS founder Piya Sorcar, Khan catalyzed his creativity with a larger motivation: teaching in a new way, to more people than ever before.

This “feed-forward loop” of motivation fueling experimentation also appeared in the creation of Asana, an application that teams and businesses can use to track their progress. Co-founder Justin Rosenstein discovered the need for efficient collaboration within a large, diverse team during his time working at Facebook. Rosenstein allowed this inspiration to power experiments he conducted with his co-workers, experiments that ultimately resulted in the creation of a streamlined communication platform that was first taken up by the entire company. Ultimately, this platform became Asana.

These products have achieved success because they align so neatly with the needs of their users. However, the inventive process that their creators invested in was often anything but neat.

Other publications that feature TeachAIDS include Made with Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, The Startup Star by Matt Cook and Jon Zhang, and Health Communication in the New Media Landscape.

Dr. Piya Sorcar, Founder and CEO of TeachAIDS, presents at TEDWomen 2015
01
JUN
2015
Following the TEDxWomen presentation Dr. Piya Sorcar delivered in 2014, the TeachAIDS founder and CEO was invited to present to the 2015 TEDWomen conference in Monterey, California.

TEDWomen is a three-day TED special event conference on the power of women and girls to be creators and change-makers.  More than 40 speakers offered insights and perspectives around the 2015 theme of "Momentum".  Nearly 240 TEDx events in 68 countries participated, resulting in a truly global conversation..

In 2014 Dr. Sorcar presented on developing culturally sensitive, accurate HIV education materials. This year, she was part of a panel session entitled The 19th Minute, a reference to what happens after the “power-packed 18 minutes” Ted talks are known for. Dr. Sorcar shared new research discovered over the past couple years along with the exponential growth into 75+ nations..

Speakers at the 2015 TEDWomen conference included former president and Nobel laureate Jimmy Carter, actor and activist Jane Fonda, tennis legend Billy Jean King, comedian and actor Lily Tomlin, as well as activists, artists and visionaries from all over the world..

TeachAIDS is honored to have been featured among this inspirational line up. Sharing ideas and stories is central to the philosophy of TeachAIDS, and we fully support TED’s agenda to make ideas accessible and spark conversation.  We hope such important global conversation continues for many years to come..

Photo: Dr. Piya Sorcar, Founder and CEO of TeachAIDS, presents at TEDWomen 2015

Samburu Girls Foundation in north-central Kenya
24
APR
2015
“One powerful moment was when I realized the girls did not fully comprehend the gravity and reality of AIDS as a serious health condition. The TeachAIDS material created a safe space for questions that enabled and empowered these girls to learn how to respect their bodies.”--Tia Rudd, health educator

The Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF) is run by Josephine Kulea, a child rights activist and the 2013 UN Person of the year in Kenya.  Ms. Kulea is a member of the Samburu clan in north-central Kenya and was raised in a culture where early child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and a practice called  “beading” are commonplace. “Beading is a centuries-old tradition of the Samburu.  While the young males (morans) wait to be married (up to 15 years after their circumcision rites), they are allowed to select an unmarried girl from within their clan for an exclusive but temporary sexual relationship. After negotiations with her family are complete, the moran presents her with a collar of red beads, which marks her as “taken.” Girls as young as 4 years old have been beaded,” says Tia Rudd, an MPH student at University of Nevada and former Peace Corps volunteer. Ms. Rudd traveled to Kenya to lead an empowerment training program for girls protected in an SGF safe house.

Ms. Kulea’s inspiration came from her courageous mother who would feed and care for young girls fleeing from early marriage or FGM. She would watch her mother care for these children in their one-room hut and promised herself that one day, when she was old enough, she too would protect these children. Ms. Kulea soon began to safeguard young girls as they escaped the practices of FGM and beading. Eventually, as the number of girls she cared for grew, she founded SGF.

Today, when a child reaches out for support, Ms. Kulea immediately sends a vehicle for the rescue. The child is brought to one of the SGF safe houses, where she can stay until the organization is able to send her to a primary or secondary school. Many of these girls already have children of their own.

Ms. Kulea requested that Ms. Rudd incorporate sexual and reproductive health topics into the empowerment program.  Many Kenyan parents, teachers and health officials are reluctant to speak openly about sex, making school-based sex and HIV/AIDS education nearly impossible to access.  Ms. Rudd was excited to discover the TeachAIDS software online and learn that the educational material was evidence-based and had been tried-and-tested for high retention among learners.

Given that there was a single laptop and 20 girls in the program, they took turns watching the animations. “They loved the interactive animations and spent 4 hours sharing and interacting with the material.”

Over the years, TeachAIDS has showcased the efforts of several commendable organizations like the Samburu Girls Foundation who are working across Kenya to improve educational efforts. Some of these include A Better Education Club to educate children in regions inhabited by the Taita tribeDignitas Project as part of their leadership programming in Mathare; and Arché-ONLUS in its rural school education outreach efforts.

The TeachAIDS materials will be used again this summer at the SGF. We applaud local heroes such as Ms. Kulea and Ms. Rudd who have worked strategically and tirelessly to provide basic education and protect children's rights.

Photo: Samburu Girls Foundation in north-central Kenya

Former President of Botswana Festus Mogae shares the TeachAIDS software with students from Stepping Stones International at his residence in Phakalane Golf Estate Gaborone, Botswana.
19
MAR
2015

“Youth is such an exciting time. I want to encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities around you…However, childhood also has its challenges.  Too often the dreams of our youth are compromised by things like teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, intergenerational sex, and especially HIV and AIDS. The information you need to protect yourself is available. It is up to you to take action.”      

-Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae

The government of Botswana has designated March as the Month of Youth Against AIDS , or MYAA.  During this month, young people across the country collaborate with a diverse range of partners to engage in educational activities and informed discussions revolving around HIV and AIDS in their respective communities.

In commemoration of this year’s MYAA, we would like to highlight one such inspiring story. The Kgale Hill Junior Secondary School (JSS) in Gaborone, Botswana, showed the video version—specifically designed for Botswana-- of the TeachAIDS software to 735 of their students.  Aside from showing the TeachAIDS material as part of an organized classroom education initiative, the school also uploaded the educational content onto every computer in the school’s computer lab, making the material accessible in perpetuity to students who wanted to learn more and/or review the content during their spare time. The school also made a point to send the link to the parents of all of their students, enabling those with Internet to download the materials, educate themselves about the topic and engage in further conversation with their children at home.

Kgale Hill JSS educator Ms. Mercy Peole was pleased with the level of dedication her students demonstrated while watching the TeachAIDS animations. In particular, she noted that the students were deeply touched by the animation’s opening “Message of Hope” from Former President Festus Mogae”, who serves as a Special Advisor to TeachAIDS.  Mercy described that, “you could hear [a] pin drop in that class room, with [students] glued…to the big screen…eager to hear what the former President has to say to him/her! Powerful message indeed.” In President Mogae’s message, he asks youth to empower themselves through education and  offers inspiration to the people of his nation, and throughout Africa, to take control of their own health and destinies.

In this spirit, Mercy described how one of the most powerful moments of the lesson were the personal pledges her students made after watching the animated production. The students observed a moment of silence during which time they were challenged to quietly make a personal commitment to protect themselves and others from the transmission of the virus, taking ownership of the TeachAIDS message that “HIV prevention begins with me.”

“They are committing to zero transmission lifestyles…by making a personal pledge like this there is no pressure from the outside to make the commitment since the learners are each making a commitment with the 'self.' This can strengthen self-management and accountability to oneself [and] hence ownership that indeed 'in my life HIV prevention begins with me.’”

-Mercy Peole, educator at Kgale Hill JSS

 TeachAIDS has a strong history and collaborative relationship with the government of Botswana in their effort to combat the spread of HIV in their country. Several years ago, when their government reached out to TeachAIDS to build interactive educational tools together, a special partnership was forged between TeachAIDS, the Ministry of Education, Stepping Stones International, and UNICEF, to help stop the HIV fatigue plaguing its citizens. While over one-fifth of adults in Botswana were HIV positive, citizens were growing tired of hearing the same HIV mass media messaging through billboards, television commercials, and pamphlets. Scientific research indicated that education provided to them in this repetitive and fragmented format was becoming increasingly ineffective.

Internationally recognized award-winning hip-hop artists, Scar, Zeus, and Tref, along with radio icon, Jazzelle, and government leaders gave voice to characters and a script tailored to reflect the cultural preferences of the people of Botswana. The animations were customized in both English and Setswana, the country’s two official languages. Botswana’s Deputy Permanent Secretary went on to approve TeachAIDS software for every school in the nation and collaborate with local educators and administrators to ensure the material would be actively distributed and used in classrooms. To further promote these distribution efforts, the Ministry named June 15th as “TeachAIDS Day.”

TeachAIDS is pleased to support MYAA and the outstanding efforts of Kgale Hill JSS. We wish you, and other similar institutions, the very best as you continue to arm our young people with a sense of ownership over their own health and well being.

Photo: Former President of Botswana Festus Mogae shares the TeachAIDS software with students from Stepping Stones International at his residence in Phakalane Golf Estate Gaborone, Botswana.

21
FEB
2015

TeachAIDS was awarded a grant from Dream Blue Foundation (DBF) in their Education & Technology category.  The foundation is an independent nonprofit organization established by BTI Solutions, Inc. and works towards improving the lives of people around the globe with the most urgent needs. Together we will expand our research-based HIV interactive software to reach more areas in the world.

Dream Blue Foundation partners with organizations to support initiatives and programs that respond in meaningful and holistic ways to meet the needs and priorities of vulnerable populations.

We are pleased to welcome DBF as a TeachAIDS partner. We look forward to combining efforts to expand our interactive software to make prevention education more accessible globally.