Riding the tide from Vienna to Washington D.C.
|With the theme for the XIX International AIDS Conference having been selected just a few weeks ago, I thought this would be a perfect time to look back at the YAHAnet team’s experiences at AIDS 2010 in Vienna and see how this will carry us and our global network forward to AIDS 2012 in Washington D.C.! I hope that this blog entry gives you a more personal look at some of the people behind the scenes at YAHAnet.|
|We had a few days to explore the city of Wien before our collage workshop at the YouthForce Pre-Conference, and it wasn't long before we discovered the benefits of relaxing next to the Danube Canal in the late afternoon heat. We'd watch locals and tourists swim in a floating swimming pool submerged in the canal!|
|Continue with part 2 and part 3 of the tour||During our breaks from running the hands activity at the booth, we took turns exploring the rest of the Global Village. We discovered an amazing Brazilian exhibit of cartoons on HIV and AIDS drawn by artists from all over the world and were impressed by the innovative and creative ways that condoms were being packaged and marketed! We saw some brilliantly unabashed female condom demonstrations by Joy Lynn and the CONDOMIZE team and were happy to find out that the PathFinder/Girl Scout movement in Austria is very open to using the arts for HIV awareness, having already implemented a number of arts-based games and activities.|
|A notable Global Village display was a large 'AIDS tree' whose leaves were thousands of hand-written messages that were added to each day. Click the image to the right for a close-up view. It was a great idea, but I wonder what happened to all those messages after the Conference? Katie, Lukas and I knew that we wanted to make all the hand messages collected at the YAHAnet booth accessible online after the Conference so as to inspire other youth activists who were unable to attend AIDS 2010 and to prompt discussion in the lead-up to AIDS 2012. In addition to the 'AIDS tree', there were many other amazing displays and booths, particularly those raising awareness about sex work, but my most memorable experience in the Global Village was suddenly feeling a tap on my shoulder and turning around to the smiling face of one of YAHAnet's first online members—a young man from the Philippines who runs a youth organization called Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay. I had only ever been in contact with him by e-mail, and it was wonderful to meet him in person and share stories.||Photo: Wieninternational.at|
|Because we are so focused on using the arts and the media for HIV awareness, the three of us immediately noticed two different billboards that had been put up near the parking lot outside the Conference venue. Click on the billboard images to the right for larger versions. The first billboard was quite effective, if a bit dramatic, in its portrayal of a global statistic (something that can be easily ignored or forgotten) in a localized context–combining a visual depiction of a Viennese cultural landmark with a locally relevant statistical comparison. As for the second billboard, I'm not sure why it was so focused on same-sex couples. I hope it wasn't trying to make the claim that heterosexual couples are exempt from getting infected. If using billboards for awareness interests you, check out YAHAnet's how-to guide on the subject.|
Finally, it was time to head back to Montréal. We returned home with a contact list of 300 people who had expressed interest in our global network, half of whom signed up to be part of workgroups focused on using specific art forms for HIV & AIDS awareness/education. We carried home over 230 hand photos in our suitcases, and these photos became a virtual exhibition on YAHAnet a month later. This 3D Wall of Hands has received much praise from our Twitter followers, and has been displayed on the TakingITGlobal, Think MTV, and CitizenShift websites.
I have inspiring memories of our time in Vienna and the people we met. A special shout-out to the I Heart Being a Girl team from Eastern Europe, Yunuén Flores from Espolea in Mexico, Hannah from U-Tena in Kenya, Melina Halilovic from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Luigi Burgoa from Venezuela for being so supportive of our work. We hope to see them again at AIDS 2012 in Washington D.C. and discuss the progress of their projects and programs.
Judging by what we witnessed in Vienna, I know that youth activism and leadership around HIV and AIDS is continuing to build towards AIDS 2012 next July. I'm excited to work with Alexandra, Chandra, Emily, and Jason (i.e., YAHAnet's new intern team that was created just one week ago!) as we develop our proposals for the upcoming Conference. As the YAHAnet team, our global members, and our supporters on Twitter and beyond are preparing to "turn the tide together" in Washington D.C., I encourage you to discuss, plan, and share your projects right here on YAHAnet—through our Forum, Gallery, and Workgroups!
I leave you with a short video compiled from interviews shot by Katie at the YAHAnet booth in Vienna and featuring a portion of a track by musician and vocalist Owen Pallett:
Stay safe and be aware!