Theatre as HIV Prevention Tool in Native Communities

By Danilo Valladares

, by IPS

Poverty, lack of access to education and taboos about sexuality have hampered campaigns for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS among indigenous communities in Guatemala. These constraints have led to the development of new ways of communicating vital information, like theatre.

"We put on a show with clowns, because young people fall asleep at PowerPoint presentations," Walter Contreras of Ak’ Tenamit, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), told IPS. "We perform theatre skits in the Q’eqchi language and in Spanish, to reach out to local communities."

More than 3,500 cases of HIV infection were diagnosed among the native peoples of Guatemala between 2004 and 2010, equivalent to 23 percent of the country’s total HIV-positive population, according to statistics from the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance.

In the rural provinces, the highest rates of HIV/AIDS are in San Marcos in the northwest, Alta Verapaz in the north and Suchitepéquez in the southwest, according to the results of the first official survey of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the indigenous population since 1984, the year the first AIDS case was diagnosed in this Central American country.

"Indigenous communities are highly vulnerable because they do not have access to health care in their own language, they receive no information about the disease, and they have no access to HIV testing – apart from a general reluctance to talk about the illness," Contreras said.

Official statistics indicate that in 2006, eight out of 10 indigenous people were living below the poverty line in this country of 14 million people, and that 40 percent of Guatemalans are Amerindians, although NGOs and indigenous people themselves put this figure at 60 percent. Read more