By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor
On a recent trip to the capital of Guinea-Bissau, Dawn Starin noticed numerous public health billboards urging people to get tested for HIV or to practice safer sex by wearing condoms. One of the six poorest countries in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Guinea-Bissau faces an ongoing epidemic of HIV and AIDS. Prevalence is especially high in urban areas and among pregnant women and sex workers. Starin, a writer and a research associate in the department of anthropology at University College London, UK, was struck by the bright colors and larger-than-life figures in the billboards, and photographed several, including the one featured in the September Art of Nursing.
Are the billboards effective? Starin writes, “Although the billboards are fabulous to look at, many health professionals I spoke with thought they exemplified time and money wasted, in part because of the high nationwide illiteracy rate.” One health worker emphasized the need for more culture-specific studies on sexual practices and tradition, so that appropriate education programs could be developed.
Starin has also photographed public art by Thongleum Damviengkum, a mixed-media artist whose work appeared in the April Art of Nursing. Damviengkum’s often witty pieces, intended to raise public awareness about HIV and AIDS and address the stigma associated with having the disease, are on display at a restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand. “Humor is important if you want people to listen,” he told Starin.