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Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV/AIDS

Final Report 2006-2007

The Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV and AIDS project was held in the period of March 2006 – February 2007 under the auspices of UNESCO Moscow Office in the framework of Culture, HIV and AIDS UNESCO programme.

I. Objectives

The project was aimed at:

  • mobilising creative professionals for campaigns on HIV issues; 
  • developing culturally sensitive tools for HIV prevention; 
  • encouraging in young people a responsible attitude to HIV issues; 
  • supporting people living with HIV.

II. Partners

The project was carried out by the Cultural Policy Institute in collaboration with the following organisations:

  • policy makers in the field
    • UNAIDS
    • 69th Parallel Crisis Centre of Social and Psychological Aid
    • The Community of PLHIV Regional Public Organisation
    • Russian Media Partnership to Combat HIV/AIDS
    • Retea SIDA – Moldova AIDS Network
    • Generation of the Future Transdniestr Public Movement
    • Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care, Krasnoyarsk Territory
    • Tolerance Institute

  • cultural organisations
    • Independent Theatre, Belarus

  • educational organisations
    • British Higher School of Art and Design
    • International University in Moscow (IUM) / Department of Cultural Entrepreneurship
    • Moscow Academy of Finance and Law (MAFL) / Chair of Advertising and Journalism

  • charity organisations
    • Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation

III. Project Activities

1. Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV and AIDS Website

www.artsandaids.ru (In June 2007, the website was handed over to UNESCO Moscow Office)

The website was launched by August 2006, after a three-month period of conceptualising, programming and designing.

The website, available in Russian and English, comprises materials gathered and developed in the framework of the project as well as theoretical and practical resources on culturally appropriate HIV and AIDS-related work. A special section of the website hosts selected documents from the UNESCO library on HIV and AIDS.

Advertised through the partners’ network, the website was surfed by 4,257 visitors (by 11 March 2007).

The statistics of the search words that brought web-surfers to the site showed that quite a large number of them were looking for general information on HIV and AIDS. It seems to be an important feature that many of the surfers, interested in the artistic components of the project, were looking for information on personalities and organisations participating in the events and actions held.

In future, the website may be developed as a resource centre comprising:

  • a library on HIV and AIDS,
  • an agenda of HIV and AIDS-related cultural events,
  • a collection of case studies and visual materials of HIV prevention campaigns.

2. First SOSznanie International Poster Competition on HIV and AIDS Issues

The Competition was held in collaboration with the British Higher School of Art and Design.

The Jury Panel featured designers specialising in social advertising, public figures and policy makers in the field: Vladimir Dobrovinsky, Leonid Feigin, Maxim Nesterenko, Peter Protsenko (British Higher School of Art and Design); Elena Tamazova (UNAIDS); Dendev Badarch, Helena Drobna (UNESCO); Evgueny Bunimovich (Moscow City Duma); Anastasia Makryashina (The Community of PLHIV); Tatiana Abankina, Georgy Nikich (Cultural Policy Institute).

On its meeting in May 2006, the Jury formulated the terms and regulations of the Competition that were distributed to the stakeholders through the partner network and published on several specialised websites both in Russia and internationally. The press release of the Competition was developed and distributed via direct mail to target audiences in the cluster countries.

According to the regulations, initially the Competition had been open to participants from Russia and other UNESCO Moscow Office cluster countries, but as the Organisers received a number of letters from designers of various countries all over the world, the Jury took the decision to amend the Competition regulations and to open the Competition worldwide.

On the offer of East-West AIDS Foundation, the Organisers developed a special nomination for posters submitted by prisoners. As this proposal didn’t receive support from UNESCO, the issue was dropped.

In 3-month period, over 100 entries from Belarus, Brazil, China, Hungary, Iran, Mexico, Turkey, Serbia, and the Russian Federation were submitted. 100 of them were selected for the First Round.

On 20 November 2006, as a result of several Jury Panel meetings and expert discussions, the Organisers announced the list of finalists and winners of the Competition:


Mikhail Strukov. Common People

Mikhail Strukov (Solnechnogorsk). Common People


Benoni Ceratti Zorzi (Brazil).
Dmitri Ivanov (Krasnoyarsk).
Alexander Lartsev (Zhukovsky).
If a Friend Suddenly…

Laslo Antal (Serbia). AIDS: No Reason to Hide 

The winning posters were exhibited in the Gallery of the International University in Moscow in December 2006. The opening of the exhibition took place on the 30 November 2006 over the Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise Student Action held to commemorate the World AIDS Day (see section below). As estimated by the University officials, the exhibition was visited by over 400 students.

Three other exhibitions, prepared in collaboration with over 30 volunteers from two Moscow Universities and scheduled for September – November 2006 had to be cancelled, as the final decision concerning the winning posters was not taken in due time. The exhibition should have comprised a series of events and it was aimed at raising awareness of HIV prevention issues among young people.

In February 2007, the circulation of 500 of each winning poster was published in A3 format, full colour, and over the year 2007 it will be distributed through the partner network. The winners of the Competition were awarded UNESCO diplomas.

Conclusions For an event held for the first time and within a very short period, the Competition proved to be successful, as the Organisers got quite a lot of entries from different parts of the world as well as from many Russian regions.

Unfortunately, the Organisers received a very little response from the cluster countries – in spite of special attention given to this area of activity. The possible explanation of the fact might be that apart from the Russian Federation, the countries entering the Moscow cluster have a low level of internet coverage and the period within which the Competition had to be held constrained the entrants from contacting the Organisers by post. Also, the design culture of those countries being not very well developed, the possible entrants might have been discouraged by the fact that they would have to compete with strong Russian participants. It is recommended to the future organisers of such competitions to create separate contests in each of those countries.

One of the major challenges faced by the Organisers was the extreme difficulty in reaching mutual understanding between designers and policy makers in the field, as they approached the evaluation of the entries from completely different perspectives. Though among the entries submitted there were posters with sufficient artistic merit to be awarded the Competition diploma, almost all of them were voted down by the members of the Jury professionally engaged in HIV and AIDS issues. And vice versa – the posters selected by non-designer part of the Jury were turned down by the creative professionals. Nevertheless the Organisers are very proud of the final selection of posters and hope that they will inspire entrants of the future competitions on HIV and AIDS issues and will contribute to HIV prevention campaigns carried out both in Russia and internationally.

It is a pity, though, that the special nomination for posters submitted by prisoners was dropped as the Organisers received quite a number of letters supporting such initiative both from NGOs working in the field and from prisons.

3. Arctic Revelation Documentary Theatre Production

On 13-18 May 2006, the creative team of the Documentary production made a trip to Norilsk, an industrial city in the North of Siberia, beyond the Polar Circle, situated on the territory of a former GULAG camp. Georg Genoux, the director of the production, and Yury Klavdiev, the playwright, conducted more than 25 interviews with: 

  • people living with HIV/AIDS;
  • volunteers of the Community Programme, which is a Norilsk mutual aid movement on HIV and AIDS care;
  • psychologists of the 69th Parallel Crisis Centre of Social and Psychological Aid engaged in the work with HIV and AIDS issues.

The records were transcribed, after which according to the verbatim technique, fragments of the tape-scripts as well as other collected materials entered the body of the play that was entitled Arctic Revelation.

Following experts recommendations the playwright revised the first version of the play, and in August 2006, a reading of the play was held in the framework of New Drama Seminar in Palanga (Lithuania). The play was presented by actors of Independent Theatre, Belarus. The reading was followed by a discussion on the issues of HIV and AIDS in contemporary theatre that was attended by 50 art practitioners from Eastern European countries.

The second version was reviewed by leading Russian theatre experts and submitted to UNESCO for approval in August 2006. In September 2006, the rehearsals of the play started and a discussion on the play was held with the participation of the playwright, the director of the production, representatives of CPI and The Community of PLHIV.

The production was announced at the season opening in TEATRE.DOC and during the New Drama Festival in Moscow.

In November 2006, the production was shown at the Pazarjik Theatre Festival, Bulgaria.

Unfortunately, in November 2006, the UNESCO Moscow Office officials withdrew from the theatre component of the project, and since then the production has been run without the mention of UNESCO participation.

The premi?re in Moscow took place on 1 December 2006 (World AIDS Day). On 6-9 December 2006, the production was shown in Norilsk where the bulk of materials had been collected. The three shows in Norilsk took place on the premises of 69th Parallel Crisis Centre and were followed by a series of discussions.

Over the project implementation 29 performances of the play were held (data on April 2007): 10 open rehearsals and previews; 1 performance at the festival in Bulgaria; 15 performances in Moscow; 3 performances in the city of Norilsk. The previews and performances were attended by over 900 spectators.

As UNESCO Moscow Office withdrew from the theatre component of the project, the release of DVDs containing the record of the production was cancelled.

4. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise Student Action

The Student Action commemorating the World AIDS Day (1st December) was held on the premises of the International University in Moscow (IUM) on 30 November 2006. It was organised with the participation of students and professors of the Department of Cultural Entrepreneurship, IUM, and of the Chair of Advertising and Journalism, Moscow Academy of Finance and Law (MAFL).

The Action was attended by 250 young designers, PR-managers and art producers. The Action that started with TV commercials on HIV-related issues, provided by UNAIDS, comprised the following activities:

4.1. Overview of Culture, HIV and AIDS UNESCO Programme

The overview was prepared and presented by Grigory Tsvetkov, a second year student of the IUM. This overview introduced the audience to the UNESCO activities in the field of culturally sensitive HIV prevention.

The aim of the presentation was twofold. Firstly, it placed the “Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV and AIDS” project in the context of other events on HIV and AIDS issues carried out under the auspices of UNESCO all over the world.

Secondly, the preparation of the presentation helped the volunteers organising the action to get acquainted with the topic and to learn the appropriate language.

4.2. Presentation of a Sociological Survey on HIV Issues

The survey was carried out by Sophia Maltseva and Sophia Solovieva, both students of the IUM. They questioned 160 of their peers to find out their awareness of and the attitude to a range of HIV prevention issues. The questionnaire had been reviewed and completed by UNAIDS experts. The presentation of the survey was followed by a discussion on the results with comments provided by Elena Tamazova (UNAIDS).


The organisation of the research was the initiative of the student organising group. It proved to be an effective means of introducing the complicated topic among the young audience, as a large part of people who attended the action were already prepared to discuss the topic. It also helped volunteers to acquire better knowledge of the issue. The research revealed a high grade of ignorance of HIV-related issues as well as intolerance towards PLHIV among the students.

4.3. Opening of the SOSznanie Competition Exhibition

For the exhibition, 5 best posters were printed out in A1 format and put on display in the Gallery that was the venue of the Action. The students of both IUM and MAFL created and displayed their own visual installations on HIV issues.

Among the guests of the Action was one of the finalists of the Competition, Mr. Alexander Lartsev. The Action was also attended by several of the Competition entrants. It was very propitious as it allowed the Organisers to engage the audience in discussing with the artists the creative value and the messages incorporated in the winning posters.

4.4. Workshop on HIV and AIDS Issues in Posters

The workshop was run by Elena Tamazova (UNAIDS) and Vladimir Dobrovinsky (British Higher School of Art and Design), both members of the SOSznanie Competition Jury Panel.

In the first part of the workshop, Elena Tamazova, who is an Advocacy and Communication Adviser of UNAIDS, showed and commented on a multimedia presentation that comprised a wide range of posters used in HIV prevention campaigns, including some of the posters submitted to the “SOSznanie” Competition.

The objectives of the presentation were:

  • to show to the future creative professionals what inner benefits and threats a poster on HIV issues may contain from the point of view of people professionally involved in HIV and AIDS-related activities;
  • to convey basic information on HIV prevention to the young people who attended the workshop.

The second part of the presentation featured a lecture on HIV-related posters delivered by a Vladimir Dobrovinsky, a well-established Russian designer and a professor of the British Higher School of Art and Design. Mr. Dobrovinsky presented his own selection of HIV and AIDS-related posters and explained their value from a designer’s point of view.

Both presentation and the lecture were conceived as interactive: as the lecturers were not unanimous in their approach towards the representation of HIV and AIDS issues in posters, their constant dialogue encouraged the audience to actively participate in the discussion.

The Action was completed by a general discussion of the HIV and AIDS issues and a film show that featured a documentary provided by UNAIDS.

General Conclusions

The Action was definitely one of the most successful events of the project, as quite a number of young volunteers actively participated in the event. It proved that they are really concerned with the issue and are eager to contribute to the HIV and AIDS prevention campaigns.

The fact that the topic was approached indirectly, through a discussion of artistic tools, helped the experts to introduce the young audience into HIV and AIDS issues better and easier, than a mere information delivery or propaganda would have allowed.

5. Round Table Discussion: Creative Professionals and Policy-Makers: How to Reach Mutual Understanding?

The discussion, organised jointly with the Tolerance Institute, was held in Moscow on 16 November 2006.

The discussion was focused on the evaluation criteria for art works elaborating social issues. The participants also commented on the prospects of the SOSznanie Competition.

The discussion was attended by representatives of partner organisations: Susanne Drakborg and Elena Tamazova (UNAIDS), Liubava Moreva (UNESCO Moscow Office), Natalia Katsap (Russian Media Partnership to Combat HIV/AIDS), Anastasia Makryashina (The Community of PLHIV), Vladimir Dobrovinsky (Jury Member, British Higher School of Art and Design), Georg Genoux (Director of Arctic Revelation production, THEATRE.DOC), Ekaterina Genieva and Olga Sinitsyna (All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature), Nina Chagan (International University in Moscow), Irina Prokopenko (Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation), Natalia Kopelianskaya (Tolerance Institute), Anatoly Golubovsky (Radio Culture), Mikhail Gnedovsky and Sofya Averchenkova (Cultural Policy Institute).

6. Discussions in Norilsk

Over the field trip to the city of Norilsk, aimed at gathering materials for the theatre production, the creative team took part in several discussions on HIV and AIDS issues.

6.1. Round Table Discussion on HIV Prevention in Norilsk

The discussion was held on 14 May 2006 on the premises of the 69th Parallel Crisis Centre of Social and Psychological Aid.

It was attended by:

  • representatives of the Crisis Centre (President, Head of the Board of Trustees, PR-manager, psychologists and doctors);
  • the Head of Service for the Drug Addiction Prevention, Youth Department, Local Government;
  • students of the Psychological Faculty, Norilsk branch of St Petersburg State University;
  • volunteers of the Community Programme;
  • people living with HIV;
  • the creative team of the project;
  • a journalist from the Zapolyarnaya Pravda local newspaper.

The discussion investigated the following issues:

  • reasons of the HIV epidemic in the city of Norilsk;
  • latest statistics on HIV and AIDS in Norilsk;
  • activities held by the Crisis Centre with the purpose to raise awareness of the HIV and AIDS issues in Norilsk (HIV prevention campaigns, public events, mutual aid groups) and the effect of such events;
  • latest attacks on the NGOs specialising in the HIV and AIDS issues;
  • attitude of different Norilsk stakeholders (local government, the media, the educational institutions) to the HIV and AIDS issues;
  • Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV and AIDS Project and its possible impact on the attitude to the HIV and AIDS issues in Norilsk.

The core messages that came out of the round table discussion were:

  • The worrying HIV and AIDS statistics in Norilsk require the change of attitude to the issue both from the local policy makers and the community.
  • The activities carried out by the Crisis Centre showed that the most effective ways of raising awareness to the HIV and AIDS issues among the community are the cultural events on the issue (such as exhibitions and drama) and the participation of young volunteers in the prevention and care campaigns.
  • The realisation of the Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV and AIDS Project in Norilsk might give the NGOs specialising HIV and AIDS related issues in the region a very important occasion to raise in public the HIV and AIDS issues.


The first round table discussion held in Norilsk proved that the HIV and AIDS situation in Norilsk was really as serious as it is had been told to be, and the Organisers of the project had been right to concentrate their activities in this particular region of Russia.

The discussion introduced the creative team more deeply to the issue and helped to better focus the following activities in Norilsk.

6.2. Discussion on Developing Theatre Projects on Social Issues

The discussion was held on 15 May 2006 and brought together: 

  • representatives of Moscow THEATRE.DOC (the Art Director of the theatre and artists);
  • the creative team of the project;
  • representatives of the Crisis Centre;
  • representatives of Norilsk Art College (the head of education department, professor on theatre direction, students who had previously been involved in theatre projects on HIV and AIDS).

During the discussion, the Art Director of the THEATRE.DOC Mikhail Ugarov, who is a well-known Russian playwright and theatre director, acquainted the professors and students of the Art College with the contemporary theatre techniques that allow bringing on stage the sorest social problems (verbatim, life drama, etc.).

The students and the representatives of the Crisis Centre shared with the Moscow artists and the creative team their experience of carrying out drama activities over HIV prevention campaigns.

The creative team presented the future production and told about their expectations from the project. The central outcome from the discussion was the recognition of the need for theatre groups to meet the challenge of burning social issues.


The discussion was of utmost importance as it gave the students of the Art College a powerful incentive to continue their collaboration with the Crisis Centre and create further art productions on the HIV and AIDS issues by implementing the contemporary theatre techniques.

The students and professors of the College visited the performance and the master classes held by THEATRE.DOC in the framework of the Cactus Taimyrica Festival.

6.3. Round Table Discussion on Tolerance Towards PLHIV

The discussion was held on 17 May 2006, and it was attended by:

  • people living with HIV;
  • the representatives of the Crisis Centre;
  • volunteers of the Community Programme;
  • creative team of the project;
  • a filming crew of Severny Gorod (A Northern City), one of Norilsk TV-channels.

The discussion focused on the stigmatisation and discrimination of people living with HIV in Norilsk and the possible ways to their social adaptation. The participants told the creative team and the filming group several real-world examples of discriminative attitude towards people living with HIV in Norilsk. Georg Genoux, the director of the production, who is a German citizen, told the meeting about the European experience of approaching the issue.

The participants agreed that the present discrimination is partly due to the first HIV prevention campaigns that communicated the widespread opinion that AIDS equals death and thus created in the society a strong negative attitude towards people living with HIV.

It was unanimously stated that the future HIV and AIDS related campaigns should focus on tolerance and positive values (love, friendship, mutual aid, etc.) rather than on prevention through fear and distrust.


Over discussions it became clear that one of the most important aspects of the project is the possibility to make the voice of people living with HIV audible to general public. The discussions also demonstrated that in the Russian regions there is an urgent need for projects aimed at developing a stronger general public awareness of HIV and AIDS issues.

6.4. Workshop on the Verbatim Technique

On 17 May 2006, the Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV and AIDS Project and materials gathered in Norilsk were presented during the workshop on the verbatim technique run by Mikhail Ugarov, the Art Director of the THEATRE.DOC, in the framework of the Cactus Taimyrica Festival.

The workshop was held for Norilsk theatre practitioners, students of Norilsk Art College, and representatives of the media. The workshop was also attended by the psychologists from the Crisis Centre.

The aim of the workshop was to present to the professional audience new theatre techniques applicable to the socially-oriented theatre projects.

The last part of the workshop was reserved for the presentation of the project which was initially meant as an illustration to the lecture. However, the creative team decided that after the presentation of the project the floor should be given to the representatives of the Crisis Centre so that they could address directly the target audience. The passionate and artistic speech made by the PR-manager of the Crisis Centre was met with genuine enthusiasm and commitment of the audience. Several people, including representatives of the media, expressed their willingness to assist in the activities of the Crisis Centre.

On 18 May 2006, Mikhail Ugarov, the Art Director of the THEATRE.DOC, and the playwright Yuri Klavdiev participated in the life broadcast Good Company on Norilsk TV Channel-7. During the programme Yuri Klavdiev told the audience about his future play and the Contemporary Arts in Response to HIV and AIDS Project.

General Conclusions

The week-long trip to Norilsk proved that the project arouses interest not only in people personally or professionally involved in HIV and AIDS-related activities, but also in the general public who appear to feel more likely to discuss these issues when the debates are incited by art practitioners.

7. Published Materials

As UNESCO withdrew from the theatre part of the project, an agreement was reached to cancel the publication of the theatre manual on HIV and AIDS issues as well as the release of the multimedia disc with materials developed over the project implementation.

The informational booklet containing an overview of activities carried out throughout the project was published in February 2007 and is being distributed through the partner network along with the set of 5 winning posters.