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Tackling HIV in South Africa through comics

Creative outlet helps break taboos around disease

Over 5.6m people in South Africa have HIV/AIDS, with the highest prevalence recorded in KwaZulu-Natal. Due to taboos that prevent open discussion, children are deprived of clear information about risks and prevention, even though they are sexually active from a young age.

Healthcare education charity WhizzKids United collaborated with Dr Lisa El Refaie of Cardiff University, to run a series of workshops teaching teenagers in the region how to draw comics.

As a result of the workshops, teenagers with or at risk of HIV/AIDS were able to express their feelings. Many of those who were HIV+ spoke for the first time about their problems with new peer support networks, reduced isolation, and improved use of medication for the participants. A booklet of the best comics is distributed to teenagers in Edendale, helping to attract more young people to the charity’s health clinic and educational programmes.

The workshops were so successful that the same model was applied in Whizzkids United’s centre in Northern Ghana leading to the production of an information booklet about Ebola for distribution in several West African countries.

“The results were remarkable, with the teenagers telling some extremely moving stories for the first time.” Dr Lisa El Refaie, Cardiff University

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