“On behalf of the Department of Health, Central Tibetan Administration, I am writing to you to express serious concern about the vulnerability of HIV/AIDS among the Tibetan people… like in many conservative cultures around the world, [the Tibetan community] faces difficulties to openly discuss about this condition due to cultural stigmas and sensitivities as well as a serious lack of comprehensive education on the subject” -- The Honorable  Dr. Tsering Wangchuk, Tibetan Health Minister.

Late last month, Dr. Tsering Wangchuk, Minister of Health of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) invited TeachAids to Dharamsala to discuss the challenges around providing HIV education to Tibetan communities around the world. The seat of the CTA, Dharamsala is nestled in a valley of forested hills and the picturesque Bhagsu Waterfall in Northern India. Dharamsala is home to many of the most esteemed meditation and healing centers in the world and is known for its serene community.

Accepting this kind invitation, TeachAids Founder and CEO Dr. Piya Sorcar visited Dharamsala to formalize a partnership with the Ministry of Health of the CTA in a groundbreaking effort to create a localized Tibetan language version of the TeachAids HIV education software.

This partnership was initiated when Dr. Wangchuk approached TeachAids to express grave concern that Tibetan communities are at risk of becoming a “hotspot” for HIV, given a stark lack of culturally appropriate education materials on this topic. These fears are manifest in the CTA’s data, which demonstrates a 17-fold rise in new HIV cases reported in Tibet between 2005 and 2013.

“We are humbled by your warm and generous welcome and would be immensely pleased to collaborate to develop a Tibetan version of our software” -- Dr. Piya Sorcar, Founder & CEO, TeachAids.

To symbolize the importance of youth empowerment in the fight against HIV, the formal announcement of the development of a Tibetan language version of the TeachAids materials was made at the at the prestigious Sherab Gatsel Lobling School for young Tibetan men and women by Dr. Sorcar, alongside Dr. Wangchuk and Dr. Lobsang Tsering, Head of Public Health Division.

The TeachAids team also visited the Mewoen Tsuglag Petoen Model School for secondary students. At both schools, students were jubilant to hear that a Tibetan language version of this software is under development. They fervently proffered their options as to which Tibetan cultural icons they would like to see represented in the Tibetan version and shared many ideas on the localization of the materials.

TeachAids looks forward to making free, culturally tailored, HIV-prevention education available to the Tibetan community around the world. We are are humbled to have the opportunity to work with the Tibetan population and we thank Dr. Wangchuk and his team for their tireless efforts to ensure that these materials will be made available free of cost to all those who need them most.

Photo: Tibetan students in Dharamsala participate in a discussion on the importance of HIV prevention