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Creative solutions

Using art to improve HIV/AIDS education, prevention programming

Research | Frameworks in Action

By Jeff Green

For Rachel Landy, there’s a natural bond between the creative arts and medicine.

As part of her doctoral research, Ms. Landy is looking at ways the arts can help communicate information, reduce stigma and prevent HIV infection with a number of populations, including Aboriginal youth.

‘Engaging and effective’ research

“In Canada, Indigenous Peoples face a disproportionate burden of disease, including higher rates of HIV infection,” said Ms. Landy, who is completing her PhD in the Community Health and Humanities Program in the Faculty of Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Natalie Beausoleil.

“For my doctoral research, I collaborated with a community-based organization in Labrador that delivers HIV/AIDS education programming,” she explained.

“We decided to look at developing engaging and effective arts-based programming for Indigenous youth. Basing our programming in both the best practices in the field as well as the local community context, we developed a participatory film making workshop. Four amazing films were made by elders and youth during our HIV/AIDS education workshop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.”

Grounded in local realities

Originally from Southern Ontario, Ms. Landy also holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from Memorial.

Her research is multidisciplinary and draws on her own personal interests and research background.

“I have always been passionate about issues of health, well-being, culture and social justice.” –Rachel Landy

In addition to her PhD studies, she’s worked in HIV prevention with young people in Thailand as well as traditional healers in Ghana. She’s also examined the use of music as an HIV education strategy.

“I have always been passionate about issues of health, well-being, culture and social justice,” she said. “Integrating aspects of communication studies, community health, critical behavioural psychology and cultural studies with my own experiences have all illustrated how important it is for HIV prevention and education messages to come from within a culture and from within a community, grounded in local realities.”

Labrador research findings

Ms. Landy has presented findings from her PhD research at various conferences and events at home and abroad. Earlier this year, she was awarded a scholarship from the Canadian Association for HIV Research (CAHR) to represent Memorial at the group’s national meeting in Winnipeg, Man. The event brought together more than 600 of the country’s leading scientists, physicians, community leaders and student researchers.

“It was a great honour to be able to—finally—share findings from our research in Labrador.” –Rachel Landy

“I have attended this conference for the past few years and I am always extremely inspired by the amazing work being done by people living with HIV/AIDS, community activists, front line workers, scientists, social scientists and clinicians,” she pointed out. “It was a great honour to be able to—finally—share findings from our research in Labrador with this amazing research community.”

Ms. Landy says her research has the potential to improve HIV/AIDS education and prevention programming for Aboriginal youth, which will have an impact on reducing stigma and transmission. According to the CAHR, more than 34 million people around the world are living with HIV. In this country, it’s estimated more than 70,000 Canadians are living with HIV.

Ms. Landy’s future plans include continuing to develop research partnerships and skills to address community-identified research needs in order to improve health outcomes.

This story was also published in the July 25 edition of The Telegram as part of a regular summer series on research at Memorial University.

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