Young people had the opportunity to learn more regarding HIV+ individuals and AIDS in a theatre event that was organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Association of Youth Approaches to Health (Y-Peer Turkey) and hosted by Nişantaşı University.
In the play Tiyatro Akran staged on 11 April 2018, 17 young theatre performers took the stage, who teamed up with the initiative of Y-Peer Turkey. The play aims to communicate to the audience through the means of theatre on the prejudices and discrimination that HIV+ individuals are subjected to in their families, schools, workplaces and even in healthcare institutions. The content of the play was developed in workshops prior to the premiere. The play’s text is aimed to convey essential and correct information to young people on HIV+ and AIDS in an “edutainment” style; educating while entertaining. At the end of the play, the performers answered the audience’s questions while staying in their character they portrayed in the play. During the Q&A session, the topics of ‘’the situations presented in the play that could have been approached differently’’, ‘the discriminative statements’’ and ‘’false statement known to be tru’’ were discussed.
Beste Acavit, Chairwoman of the Board of the Association of Youth Approaches to Health, who made a speech in the event, said: “We aim to ensure the communication of accurate information to young people regarding sexual health and risk-free behaviour’’. She added that they were truly happy to see that correct information could be given by means of theatre.
Karl Kulessa ve Prof. Dr. Esra Hatipoğlu
Prof. Dr. Esra Hatipoğlu, Rector of Nişantaşı University, also spoke at the end of the performance. She said: ‘’This training is of great importance for us. I was very impressed and captivated by this performance. That young people do lead a healthy life is of essential significance. I would like to express my appreciation both to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Association of Youth Approaches to Health for their contribution’’.
Asked about his views on the project intended to reach young people through theater, Dr. Gökhan Yıldırımkaya, UNFPA Development Programme’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme Coordinator said: “Not knowing and understanding the physical, psychological and social transformation that the youth goes through during the puberty, and not being able to transfer the accurate information to them in a timely manner will eventually make them defenceless and as a result vulnerable to serious health risks. If the young people cannot access the correct information, they will open themselves to health risks. These age group welcomes innovation, change and advancements so we have to devise innovative ways to reach them. By doing successfully so, we are certain that there will be substantial improvements in the area of public health”.
Karl Kulessa, UNFPA Representative in Turkey, also spoke after the performance. He said: “For us who carry out projects in the field of health, this project is very important. This is a very sensitive issue; we can reach young people better by means of theatre instead of communicating our messages in a direct way. What we have watched here on the stage are all created from personal stories. Through such stories, we can better communicate our messages on such a sensitive topic. What is now important for us is to inform young people as widely as possible on how HIV is transmitted, what kind of a virus it is and how we should combat it. We always strive to correct false facts. That Nişantaşı University has opened its doors to us is the most important message in this respect. As far as HIV and AIDS are concerned, we can much more effectively reach young people if other universities, including high schools, open their doors to us as well.’’
During the performance, one performer asked how HIV+ individuals should live their lives, one of the characters replied “Just like we used’’, a response underlining that HIV+ individuals should be embraced by the society without prejudices.
It is planned to reach young people and inform them on the issues of HIV+ and AIDS as regularly as possible through theatre performances in different towns and settings with partnership of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Association of Youth Approaches to Health.