Make Art / Stop AIDS Goes to Secondary Schools

While Malawi has made significant strides in reducing new HIV infections, recent statistics show that there are approximately 28,000 new cases of HIV annually among adult’s ages 15 to 64 years in Malawi. With 50% of new HIV infections affecting those aged 15 to 17 in Malawi, young people are particularly at risk, due to early sexual activity and marriage.

Due to cultural sensitivities surrounding the topic of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), traditional education efforts face significant challenges. The lack of comprehensive education leaves young people susceptible to coercion, abuse, early pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.

Knowing about the successful efforts of the Make Art / Stop AIDS (MASA) programme in bringing HIV education to hard-to-reach populations, we set out to reach secondary school students through the MASA: Youth project in collaboration with Dignitas International.

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The MASA: Youth project aimed to empower Malawian youth to take control of their sexual and reproductive health. By using participatory, art-based approaches, the students and youth would improve their SRH knowledge, which in turn would contribute to reduced HIV incidence and a higher quality of life.

The entire project was carried out in two phases. First, students at Chancelor College (ChanCo) and Domasi College of Education joined MASA Squads and were trained to use participatory arts based approaches for SRH education. These Squads then performed on their campuses, covering SRH issues including preventing and living with HIV. These performances were complemented by discussions and HIV testing and counselling.

Then, the MASA Squads ran series of SRH workshops at eight secondary schools. The workshops included a performance and encouraged secondary schools students to engage with issues of SRH, share personal stories, and express themselves through arts.

The workshops culminated in the MASA festivals where the students performed and displayed their work. These festivals, which included facilitated discussions and School Action Plans, ignited open dialogues on SRH in the communities.

 

MASA Youth is run in partnership with Dignitas International and supported by the National AIDS Commission