UNESCO-funded YAHAnet.org to focus on culture and HIV/AIDS
On December 1, World AIDS Day, a group led by McGill University researchers will launch YAHAnet (Youth, the Arts and HIV/AIDS Network), a UNESCO-funded website that will encourage and facilitate the use of artistic expression such as hip-hop, film, photography, graffiti and drama for HIV and AIDS education and advocacy among youth groups around the world. YAHAnet will be previewed at UNICEF's Unite Against AIDS concert, featuring Avril Lavigne and Sarah McLachlan, Nov. 28 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
"The site offers a novel and dynamic approach to HIV/AIDS education in that it highlights the importance of mobilizing young people to have them become cultural producers of HIV & AIDS messages," said Professor Claudia Mitchell, who is spearheading the project along with fellow Faculty of Education professors Bronwen Low and Michael Hoechsmann. Prof. Mitchell, also an Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, has spent much of the last decade working on HIV/AIDS awareness projects that engage South African teens to put themselves "in the picture" through photography, new media and performance arts.
YAHAnet was conceived after a study of more than 300 youth groups around the world by Prof. Mitchell and her team revealed not only the abundance of youth-based organizations using creative approaches to getting the word out on HIV and AIDS, but that these organizations were seeking an outlet to interact with one another. Aside from its use as a virtual, multimedia art gallery, the site will also serve as a forum to facilitate communication, interaction, idea sharing and problem solving among youth-based HIV/AIDS advocacy groups. The site will also house how-to guides on topics such as program start-up, evaluation and fundraising, as well as a repository on current data and research on HIV/AIDS-related topics.
YAHAnet will go live on World AIDS Day thanks to the dedication of a group of McGill student interns and partners from Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP) at the University of Toronto and the Center for Visual Methodologies for Social Change (CVMSC) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The site as of December 1, 2007: www.yahanet.org