Superheroes, quilts and wish trees to fight AIDS

Colourful, creative and a little bit crazy: the fight against AIDS can be all that as activists demonstrated Tuesday at the Global Village on the sidelines of the World AIDS Conference in Vienna.

At one end of the Village, super-heroes Methadone Man and Buprenorphine Babe stood in bright latex suits, ready to affront the deadly scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Methadone and buprenorphine are used to treat drug addiction, especially to heroin, which is a major contributor to the AIDS epidemic due to shared needles.

"We wanted to make a campaign that was fun and dynamic, something that would make people gravitate towards the campaign rather than us going to them," Carlos Moreno, who produced a comic book of the two heroes for the Open Society Institute project, told AFP.

"When you approach people in this sort of method, people let their guard down a little bit, so you can talk about this in a much more fun and memorable way that sticks with you later."

Over 120 booths from 80 countries have set up shop in the hall adjoining the conference centre where the biennial AIDS congress is being held this week.

But while free condoms and brochures on prevention and awareness were the norm, more than a few exhibitors decided on a new approach.

Visitors were queuing up for a copy of The Adventures of Methadone Man and Buprenorphine Babe, a free T-shirt, or a picture with the two superheroes.

Major signs urging visitors to "Condomize" were spelt out in variously coloured condoms.

And on the main stage, transgender dancers from India performed a Bollywood show, while a group of youngsters from Kyrgyzstan presented a musical on gender issues, HIV and discrimination, to warm applause by an eager crowd.

Above the hall, large quilts paying tribute to AIDS victims acted as another reminder of the risks of HIV.

Inspired by the international Names project, founded in the United States in 1987, an Austrian outfit was encouraging visitors and delegates of the conference to paint a panel to commemorate a dead friend, which would later be sewn into a large quilt.

And the booth was buzzing with creative energy.

"I think it's a very good combination between the official part of the conference with the medical and research work - it goes from brain to brain - and here we work from heart to heart," said Friedl Nussbaumer, one of the coordinators of the Austrian Aids 2010 Memorial Quilt project.

"If you look at the names of the dead people, they are part of the conference in some way," he said emotionally.

"When you see those people painting and thinking of those who died, it's very emotional."

Not far from there, participants were attaching messages to a colourful weeping willow made of crepe paper.

The Dutch AIDS Foundation East-West, behind the "Wish Tree" idea, collected over 5,000 messages on a tour of eastern Europe and central Asia to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS ahead of the conference.

And by the end of the week, they hoped to have 10,000, the project's spokeswoman Ilona van de Braak told AFP.

"It's very important that all the voices in the region are going to be heard here at the conference."

Besides those on the tree, many messages - from children, HIV-positive women hoping for healthy babies, and others asking for treatment - were being packed into large post bags to be delivered to the head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, and of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Michel Kazatchkine, later in the week.

The tree itself will be planted outside the Vienna conference centre after the event is over.

"It's going to be planted in the park as a remembrance of the conference but also of the promises made here in Vienna," said van de Braak.

ssw/spm/lt

 

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

    Recruitment Genius: Quality Inspector

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Female Buddy & Team Leader / Buddy

    £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To join a team working with a female in her ...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence