HIV and AIDS in Africa: Continuing the conversation through music

HIV and AIDS awareness concert in Zambia
“Worth More” concert in Zambia, Africa hosted by Boston Children’s Global Health Program

Today is World AIDS Day. The number of people living with HIV in the world is roughly equal to the population of Canada. HIV still disproportionately affects Africa — of the 37 million people globally who are living with HIV, 19.6 million live in eastern and southern Africa.

The number of people living with HIV in the world is roughly equal to the population of Canada. ~ Katy Weinberg, Program Manager, Global Health Program at Boston Children’s Hospital

HIV care is what brought me to Zambia in 2006 as an HIV prevention and awareness specialist with the U.S. Peace Corps, to live with a rural community with no running water or electricity and figure out how I could add value through teaching about HIV and creating youth-friendly spaces.

A look at HIV and AIDS in Zambia

When I was in Zambia, 1 in 5 people were HIV positive. Since that time, Zambia has made large strides in combating HIV with a 24% reduction in new infections since 2010 but the country still has approximately 60,000 new HIV infections and 21,000 AIDS-related deaths each year. Zambia also remains one of the top 10 countries in the world for the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. Over 90% of Zambians have heard of HIV, but data suggests that only 39% of people (slightly higher in youth ages 15 to 24, with 42 percent of young women and 47 percent of young men) have a thorough knowledge of the virus. Comprehensive sex education was added to school curriculums in 2016, and additional strategies targeted out of school adolescents. However, 39 percent of 15 to 24 year olds have not completed primary education and have therefore not been exposed to the in-school sex education curriculums.

How Boston Children’s Global Health Program is helping

To address this lack of knowledge, my Zambian counterpart Emmanuel Banda and I held focus groups in rural, semi-urban and urban areas of Zambia with over 100 youth to find out what they worried about in regards to HIV. Universally, they answered that they were concerned about the high rate of transactional sex among their peers (i.e. sex in exchange for hair extensions or talk time, etc.). We teamed up with Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Media and Child Health as well as Ephraim Sekeleti Mutalange, Son of Africa. This music video, “Worth More,” is the result.

The Global Health Program at Boston Children’s Hospital works to support our clinicians and caregivers to partner globally for sustainable solutions in care delivery and public health. This project gave me an opportunity to apply my skillset and knowledge base while understanding some of the challenges and triumphs our caregivers have while working in the field to strengthen healthcare systems, advocate, research or provide care delivery or education as a way of sustainably improving the health of children worldwide.

Boston Children’s Global Health Program thanks the Aerosmith Endowment Fund for Prevention and Treatment of AIDS and HIV Infections for helping to fund this project.

Learn more about Boston Children’s Global Health Program.

Katy Weinberg headshotAbout the blogger: Katy Weinberg, MBA is the program manager for the Global Health Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and a 2019 MPH candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health.