This year on December 1st, HEAL International hosted two different World AIDS Day Events on opposite sides of the globe! In Tempe, Arizona, we hosted our annual Paint for Peace event at Arizona State University. In Arusha, Tanzania we collaborated with our community to host our first World AIDS Day event. We loved getting to celebrate this day with both of our communities.
In Arusha, Tanzania, we held a World AIDS Day event to honor those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, to empower and educate young people about HIV, and to fight HIV stigma in our communities. Tengeru Institute for Community Development (TICD) hosted HEAL International and, with the help of their student government, the event was a success. Upon entering the lecture hall, participants received a red ribbon symbolic of the fight against HIV/AIDS. Over 300 young people attended the event where the first hour was spent listening to and engaging with different speakers from the community. The topics presented were as follows:
HIV Testing and Counseling (Efram)
HIV Stigma: Breaking the Cycle (Sarah Mure and Haroun Jeremia, HEAL International)
HIV Transmission and Prevention (Godlisten Mbise and Haroun Jeremia, HEAL International)
HIV Testing and Treatment (Tengeru Institute for Community Development Team)
Home Based Care Services (WAMATA)
Technology and HIV (Ally Salim, Dr. Elsa)
Women and HIV (Tengeru Institute for Community Development Team)
All of these conversations left the students with a new sense of freedom surrounding HIV as well as the power to create new futures for themselves and their communities.
After the lectures, in collaboration with TICD and Meru District Hospital, HIV testing was made available to students. In total, 125 young people chose to get tested, 80 of those being young women. The testing and results were done in a safe and confidential space, and counseling was provided before and after the test. There were no incidences to share.
There was also music outside and activities for students to share with others about how they can work together to create change in their community. For example, there were posters set up around campus that stated “HIV stigma STOPS with me” and students who wanted to commit to break the cycle of HIV stigma were challenged to sign their name and take a stand in their community. Small posters with positive World AIDS Day messages saying, “Everyone has an HIV status, know yours” “I know my status, do you?” “Get tested, protect yourself” and student’s very own messages were created for everyone to take pictures with and share on their social media to spread love and light surrounding HIV. There was also an HIV memorial made to honor and remember those we have lost to HIV where students wrote the names of loved ones and hung them on a string between beautiful palm trees.
HEAL International’s First World AIDS Day event in Tanzania was full of love and could not have been achieved without the help of TICD, Meru District Hospital, and WAMATA. We are honored to work in Arusha and inspired by the young students who are taking a stand to fight HIV in their communities. We look forward to future World AIDS Day events in Tanzania and one day an HIV free generation.
To celebrate World AIDS Day at ASU, we hosted the 9th annual Paint for Peace on Hayden Lawn. This event creates a space to express hope for the future of HIV/AIDS, and aims to inspire, educate, empower, and offer hope for all those infected, affected, and at-risk.
Guests attending the event were invited to paint on a small canvas, and were asked to include a red ribbon to honor those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Throughout the day, we had over 90 people paint! Painters had the option to dedicate a canvas to honor someone who lost their life to HIV, and those canvases will be incorporated into the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
We had fun activities that spread awareness and positive messages surrounding HIV/AIDS, such as lawn scrabble with words focused around HIV/AIDS, cornhole decorated with large red ribbons, giant Jenga with questions about HIV, and a colorful spin wheel with HIV trivia questions and candy prizes. All of these games were handmade by our Community Health Facilitators and ASU volunteers.
Over 50 students from ASU’s HIV class, MIC 314, volunteered their time to help with the event and fight stigma. Our volunteers brought passion, and many of them chose to get tested for the first time. For some, it was also their first time personally witnessing HIV stigma, and all volunteers held a space for love and acceptance.
As people were painting and participating in activities, local public health and sexual health partner agencies tabled to provide love, support, and answer questions. Aunt Rita’s Foundation provided free condoms, PrEP information cards, and HIV information cards to hand out to painters and students passing by.
The highlight of Paint for Peace every year is free HIV testing—and this year was no different! Terros Health provided rapid HIV testing and made sure that every student who wanted to get tested did and had information about local clinics they can visit in the future.
Paint for Peace is an event that not only honors those who are infected or affected by HIV, but also a day that spreads awareness and reduces HIV stigma. Just by attending this event, guests get to talk about HIV, learn about HIV, and get to be loved as they are. World AIDS Day is all about spreading love and reducing stigma, and that is exactly what we did this year at Paint for Peace.
Special thanks to Aunt Rita’s Foundation, the Bill Holt Clinic, Joshua Tree Feeding Program, Ignite from Southwest Center, Terros Health, One n Ten, and All Walks at ASU for all standing with us at HEAL International and making this day of love and light possible.