Tag Archive for hiv

Botswana Trip Curricular Goals

Source: cordelia_persen on Flickr

We leave for Botswana in two weeks. What curricular goals have we realized so far, and what remains to accomplish?

Collaborations with discipline-based classes
We (the two trip leaders) proposed to invite teachers to include the topic of HIV/AIDS in Botswana in their classes. Our method was simple: we raised the opportunity with teachers by email and impromptu, in-person conversations. To our pleasure, a half-dozen teachers responded with interest.

Pathogens and Parasites students wrote a guide to malaria and HIV/AIDS in Botswana for trip families. I presented some basic facts about the country and then organized the students into groups to co-write this document.

Statistics students analyzed data on AIDS prevalence in Botswana.

Second grade students wrote introductory letters (w/photos) to primary students in Gumare, in support of the yearlong theme of global awareness.

Media Arts students created short films from poems that Maru-a-Pula students wrote.

Advanced Biology students studied the intricacies of the immune system, or viruses and on the specifics of the HIV virus and it’s effect on infected humans.

Collaborations with co-curricular programs
We hold an annual diversity conference, planned and led by students. One trip participant shared excerpts from a book on HIV and AIDS in Botswana and shared clips from a film then facilitated a discussion of both.

Two teachers work with students in the Global Citizens Club to offer a series of film viewings throughout the year. The Viewfinder Global Film Series included the film Miss HIV, introduced and facilitated by two trip participants.

Non-collaborative activities with curricular links
While the curriculum of trip preparation remains firmly embedded in the school’s co-curricular program, some conversations demonstrated links with the school’s curricular program.

Trip participants spoke with various HIV/AIDS experts about Botswana.

Cascade AIDS Project
Botswana-Harvard AIDS Partnership
Médecins Sans Frontières
Providence Health
Botswana-Baylor Pediatric AIDS Initiative.

The trip group organized and delivered a presentation at Upper School assembly, including dramatic role play.

Trip participants organized on-campus fundraising events to benefit support organizations in Botswana.

Trip group read and discussed Saturday Is for Funerals.

Miss HIV

On the one hand, Miss HIV provides detailed insight into the personal side of HIV/AIDS in Botswana and Uganda. Interview subjects describe their journeys through testing, illness, treatment, and publicly revealing their status. The filmmakers share footage of funerals, burials, church ceremonies, and the 2006 International AIDS Conference. We have found it valuable to gain insight into the personal dimensions of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana.

On the other hand, the film is also a fascinating study in how to make a propaganda vehicle. It begins as a “balanced” presentation of competing western ideological views of how to best fight HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. On one side, we have local policy created in Uganda and based on abstinence, faithfulness, and use of condoms. On the other, we have a liberal, western policy based on the San Francisco gay experience, emphasizing human rights, and implemented in Botswana. The stigma of being HIV+ is presented as a key obstacle to overcome. The film is pretty clear so far.

The middle of the film is confusing (deliberately?), presenting several contradictory ideas in quick succession. Western policy does not support abstinence education, but then here is a shot of George W. Bush signing for millions for abstinence. Bill Gates is booed for supporting abstinence and then cheered for acknowledging the limits of abstinence policy. One speaker bemoans the lack of support for women’s rights organizations, then another speaker chides Mr. Gates for (somehow) supporting prostitution. The Miss HIV Stigma-free Pageant is alternately celebrated for battling stigma and criticized for sexualizing a public heath crisis.

Near the end, the film suddenly crystallizes its argument, “saving” viewers from their confused state. Abstinence education has worked in Uganda, and sexually permissive policies have failed in Botswana. A church minister and two individuals who cherish abstinence are the key figures in this part of the film.

This tidy conclusion overlooks some key facts:

  • The ABC approach was popularized in Botswana in the 1990’s. (source)
  • Uganda’s success resulted from a number of factors, not just abstinence. (source)
  • Uganda has a mixture of substrains HIV-1A, 1C, and 1D (source). In Botswana, HIV-1C is responsible for nearly all infections (source). It is more difficult to prevent new infections with HIV-1C.

For each powerful voice that Miss HIV shares in the fight against HIV/AIDS, it leaves out another.

  • Human rights organizations have expressed concern about President Museveni’s restrictions on homosexuals and democratic processes. (source)
  • Social engineering is extremely difficult and certainly not formulaic.
  • The film does not include interviews with ministry of health officials in either country.

Miss HIV shares rare, first-hand footage of HIV and AIDS in Uganda and Botswana but ultimately presents a one-sided conclusion.


Global Trips: Student Leadership

A number of us are working to make this year’s global trips a whole-community experience. Previously, we made a strong push for teachers to include Botswana and HIV/AIDS in their course curricula. Now, we turn our attention to community events.

Botswana trip participants planned and presented an assembly to Upper School students last week. It was such a pleasure to sit in the audience and absorb the accuracy, significance, organization, and style of their presentation while playing no direct role except capturing it on video. This was for me the first realization of our ultimate goal of conferring as much trip planning responsibility as possible to the students. There is no need for the two adults to act as tour guides. This trip is for the students, and they will benefit so much more when the trip is also set up by the students.

The assembly included:

  • “Stand-up” activity for audience members to learn some key metrics about the effect of HIV and AIDS on the Botswana population. For example, the number of people living with AIDS is increasing, since antiretroviral treatment is now widely available, but the rate of new infections has not decreased significantly.
  • Skit adapted from a chapter of Saturday Is For Funerals (“the driver”), with a short introduction about the role of stigma in the AIDS crisis. I was so impressed with how two students selected a scene, memorized, and rehearsed the skit in a week’s time!
  • Presentation about the basic structure and activities of the trip. Without a comment from the adults, they did not at all mention the recreational portions of the trip — kept the presentation focused on the business.
  • Explanation of how students can help raise funds and send school supplies to villages that need it.

At least seven of the 13 trip participants got up on stage, and they completed all of this within 15 minutes. Transitions were very crisp, and for the most part, students avoided digressing while on stage.

Next up in our month of community presentations:


Saturday Is for Funerals

In preparation for our service trip to Botswana, I recently read Saturday Is for Funerals. We continue to find resources perfectly matched to our trip objectives, including a guest speaker from the Cascade AIDS Project, a Peace Corps correspondence match, and now this book.

Unity Dow and Max Essex present a series of vignettes that cover the spectrum of HIV+ and AIDS cases in Botswana. From newlyweds to newborns, no one escapes this cruel disease. Despite depressing tales of demise, the book is mainly hopeful, since any Motswana can now gain ARV treatment and survive the disease. Saturdays are no longer just for funerals anymore.

We will ask all of our trip participants to read this book, since it presents social, cultural, medical, economic, and political dimensions of AIDS. It will be a terrific introduction for our students.

Read Danielle Friedman’s review of Saturday Is for Funerals.