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Demystifying Vertical Transmission of HIV

The Project:  HIV Education in 3 Minutes or Less

As HIV/AIDS terminology and issues become increasingly complicated, fewer people are able to keep up or participate in informed advocacy around HIV and human rights.

In an attempt to address this issue, AIDS-Free World began a pilot project in the summer of 2010: the creation of educational, hand-drawn video shorts about complex HIV issues.


AIDS-Free World selected a small team of student interns to develop the scripts for the first videos.  Bringing a range of substantive, creative, and technical skills to the project, the three interns thoroughly investigated different HIV issues, created storyboards to explain them using plain language, and turned the storyboards into video shorts under 3 minutes long.

Their first video short simplifies the answers to such complicated questions as:

  • How is HIV transmitted from a mother to her child? 
  • Can this vertical transmission be prevented? 
  • How does anti-retroviral therapy work?

Lessons Learned

This pilot project presented both logistical and substantive challenges.  Students had to research and wrestle with complicated content about HIV, and then break it down into very clear explanations.  Questions arose such as: how much background information is needed?  How much knowledge will the audience already have?  How will the illustrations contribute to a viewer’s understanding of the written or spoken information?  Should the videos be solely definitional and explanatory, or can they include an advocacy position as well?  How many words are too many?  How many numbers or statistics are too many?  When is the video too long?

All aspects of the technical and creative production had to be resolved as well:  Is it easier to hire an outside animator or create videos internally with software such as iMovie?  What type of voice and tone should be on the voiceover?  What kind of images and figures will resonate with a wide range of audiences?

The creation of the first video short, about vertical transmission of HIV, helped AIDS-Free World resolve a number of these issues.  We hope it will be the beginning of the demystification of HIV terminology. 

More To Come

Please check back on our website for more educational video shorts about HIV.  Future videos may address questions such as:

  • What does an HIV-positive mother need to know about infant feeding? 
  • Why do more women than men contract HIV in Africa?
  • Where does global funding for HIV/AIDS come from?

If you have suggestions for HIV terminology or concepts you would like to see explained in a video short, please email info@aidsfreeworld.org

The Creators:  AIDS-Free World’s 2010 Summer Interns

Sara Bradshaw is a 2010 graduate of New York University, where she studied Museum Studies and Writing at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.  Her colloquium topic was "The Ethics of Ethnic Museums," and she has worked in the education departments of several New York museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, South Street Seaport Museum, and The Parrish Art Museum.  She currently interns at Do Something, where she helps the grants program celebrate teenagers who are taking initiatives to change the world.  Sara has also taught health workshops in NYC high schools as part of Peer Health Exchange.  She is from Long Island.

Meg Ginivan is a recent graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service with a degree in International Politics.  Her studies focused on international development with a particular interest in Sub-Saharan Africa and HIV/AIDS.  While at Georgetown, Meg was a four-year varsity athlete and, in her senior year, co-captain of the women's rowing team.  She also taught with Grassroot Hoyas, a student-athlete run non-profit which uses the power of sports and games to educate and empower at-risk DC youth with information about HIV/AIDS.  Also at Georgetown, Meg studied for a semester at L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Strasbourg, France.  Meg has interned for the Board on Global Health at the National Academies of Science where she worked on two studies:  Global Violence Prevention in Low- and Middle-Income Countries and An American Commitment to Global Health.  This past summer, Meg traveled to Kashmir, India as an intern for KashmirCorps where she conducted research to support the establishment of a public health clinic.

Madeline Jans-Neuberger is a junior at Brown University, studying Community Health and Hispanic Studies.  She grew up in San Francisco, but went to high school in Ashland, Oregon, and spent her junior year of high school on exchange in Quito, Ecuador.  While at school, Madeline keeps herself busy between volunteering with Project HEALTH, an organization that works to connect families to resources such as housing, government subsidies, and job training, tutoring children from low-income families in the Providence public schools, and singing with her a cappella group, the Ursa Minors.  She recently spent her Spring Break volunteering at a clinic in the Dominican Republic.  Madeline is hoping to pursue a career in global health.