Organisation uses dance in the fight against HIV\AIDS
By Alex Wayne
Kaieteur News
March 18, 2007

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On Friday, DANCE ALIVE, an HIV/AIDS related organisation, performed its special brand of edutainment for the students of ten East Coast Demerara schools, with an extensive cultural programme at Bladen Hall Multilateral.

This event was sponsored through the United States Ambassador's Fund and the Centre for Diseases Control (CDC GUYANA ), according to DANCE ALIVE Founder, Eric Phillips.

Since its formation in August 2005, DANCE ALIVE has been promoting and hosting several programmes aimed at reducing and eliminating the spread of the deadly virus.

Using dance as the foremost medium of sending their message, the organisation has already hosted several events that have made a positive impact in the lives of many—old and young—living with and without the virus.

HIV/AIDS education, motivational pieces and interpretive dancing ruled the day at Friday's event.

The Crystallite Dance Group, led by Carey Bookie, performed 16 pieces covering Gospel, Interpretive, Soul, Classical, Latin, Indian and African dancing.

Each dance is preceded by discussion of the DANCE ALIVE HIV/AIDS Alphabet, created by founder, Eric Phillips.

According to Phillips, the alphabet, which has various words attached to each letter, is a true reflection of the organisation's campaign against HIV/AIDS. He said that words such as Abstinence, Faithful, Women and many others are attached to the letters to serve as a reminder of how important it is to guard against becoming victims of the deadly virus.

There are 26 dances associated with the letters and these are chosen depending on the audience mix, age grouping and messages chosen.

With dance as an integral part of Guyanese culture, young people who are more optimistic about their future are less likely to indulge in high risk behaviour.

An “educating for life” approach to nurture awareness of the disease and to influence behaviour change with respect to HIV/AIDS, poverty and life choices, and celebrating “life” with hope and vitality and by actively supporting the innate abilities of each individual are among the concepts behind the programme.

Currently, DANCE ALIVE is being funded by the Guyana HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Project (GAPCP) working through the Health Sector Development Unit (HSDU), to produce 26 half-hour tapes to be aired on TV during the year.

This programme is overseen by Executive Director of HSDU, Keith Burrowes and managed by Ms. Asmita Chand, Civil Society Coordinator and team.

Introducing their initial step in using edutainment in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Phillips said that though Guyana has been called the Kingdom of Nature and the Land of Enchantment , its greatest wealth lies in its people and their diverse cultures.

He added that Guyana 's canopy of wealth lies in the youths, who, he emphasised, play an important role in the country's future.

According to Phillips, Guyana 's youth are being threatened by a silent stalker, HIV/AIDS. He added that the possibility of an HIV/AIDS pandemic in the midst of poverty, drugs and gender abuse makes the current situation the moral, medical, social, political, financial, cultural and religious challenge of everyone's lifetime.

Phillips explained that those associated with DANCE ALIVE are committed to the fight against this disease destroying the society and hindering sustainable development.

He pointed out that HIV/AIDS destroys the function and smooth running of families, communities and countries. He added that when persons find out they are infected, they go through a myriad of raw emotions, the first being denial, then they become frightened, angry, anxious, confused, despondent, emotionally traumatised and even suicidal.

The fight against HIV/AIDS is a complex and emotional battle. It is also a medical one. Moreover, the fight against HIV/AIDS is a fight to change behaviour. To help in this area, he suggested the help and moral support of friends, family members and colleagues.

Phillips said that dance is a mixture of both passion and compassion. It is the purest emotion of the heart and is also the hidden language of the soul, and can trigger powerful images, feelings and sensations arising from the depths of stored childhood memories.

The DANCE ALIVE team will travel to all parts of Guyana to bring hope to those who are affected and to their loved ones.

“We believe that letting those who are infected know there is a lot to live for is as important as knowing we will not abandon them.

The organisation comprises educators, counselors and dancers, and will visit villages, schools or organizations in their HIV/AIDS campaign.

It will work with community leaders, youth organisations and all Government Ministries and NGOs that are already engaged in this fight, and will also sponsor national competitions in dance, photography, painting, drawing and reading.

Each show will have an accompanying photographic exhibition.