Namibian music takes HIV/Aids message on the road

5,000 NamibiAlive! CDs were distributed free to truck and combi drivers throughout Namibia. United States Peace Corps volunteers, Amy Taylor and Dan Cwirka, produced this AIDS awareness CD to target long-distance drivers – a population with a high-risk of contracting HIV/AIDS due to their mobility and expendable income. Taylor and Cwirka saw the need to reach out to this group during a combi ride from Windhoek to northern Namibia, where they have worked as volunteer teachers since December 2004.

“NamibiAlive! wasn’t about making a CD for the world market; it was about putting together a CD of music and messages that Namibians would want to play,” said Cwirka. “There is a clear need to raise awareness among truckers because some of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Namibia are often found in transit centers and along major transportation routes.”

Taylor and Cwirka were supported in their project by a great number of individuals and organizations – private, non-profit, and government alike – who were caught up by the duo’s enthusiasm and drive to combat HIV/AIDS. They secured $3,000 from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is the U.S. government’s five-year initiative to combat HIV/AIDS in 15 focus countries. Under PEPFAR, the U.S. government has provided over $124 million to Namibia between FY 2004 and 2006 for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment.

Cwirka and Taylor also raised nearly $5,000 from family and friends in the United States to assist in the production of NamibiAlive! “AIDS is not just an African problem. It affects all of us regardless of race, nationality or sexuality,” said Taylor. “We are blessed to have people at home who understand this.”

Other international and local donors recognized the importance of reaching out to this high risk group and supported this effort. The German Technical Cooperation provided funding to cover production costs of 3,500 CDs. Namibia’s Ministry of Works, Transport, and Communication has pledged to distribute the CDs through its HIV/AIDS workplace programs, and its presence at border crossings and checkpoints. The Social Marketing Association (SMA), creator of the highly successful New Start campaign, helped with the promotion of the album by designing and distributing NamibiAlive! posters and stickers. SMA will also use its outreach expertise to distribute the CDs to the more remote regions of Namibia.

At the local level, socially conscious artists donated their songs and recorded personal messages for the purpose of AIDS awareness. Twelve of the fourteen messages were recorded by local producer Christian Poloni, who offered his studio and technical skills at a discounted rate. “It is nice to be involved with a project that promotes local music and heightens AIDS awareness,” remarked Poloni.

A promotional video featuring the NamibiAlive! artists and their messages was screened at the Sanlam/NBC Music Awards, which coincided with the launch and World AIDS Day.

“The NambiAlive! Launch was, in fact, a World AIDS Day celebration,” said Jeff Millington, Peace Corps Namibia Country Director. “It shines as an example of what can happen when different nations of the world come together to combat AIDS.”

The United States Peace Corps has been a presence in Namibia since 1990. Since that time, Peace Corps Namibia has been in the field working to improve education and implement AIDS awareness and prevention initiatives. Peace Corps Namibia currently has over 120 volunteers posted throughout the country.

December 2006
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