Building peace in the minds of men and women

Fighting HIV and AIDS: First UNESCO supported Codefest held in China

University students launched ideas for multimedia products aiming to innovatively increase sexuality knowledge among young people at the first ‘Codefest’ on Youth, Health and New Media, organized by the Communication University of China in partnership with the UNESCO Beijing Office. The event was held on 23 April 2014, gathering almost a hundred of computer and multimedia enthusiasts, including six teams of graduate students from Beijing-based universities, as well as academics and experts on HIV, sexual and reproductive health, and representatives of the ICT private sector.

The six multidisciplinary teams were composed by IT programmers and developers, digital animation makers and digital-artists. They “pitched” their multimedia product proposals to a panel of experts. Among the presented works were a series of animated motion-graphics creatively illustrating the history of contraception, and two apps for smartphones, including a videogame mainstreaming information on sexual education.

Participants also shared their views on the products’ conception, difficulties encountered and lessons learnt from this experience. They have voiced their concerns on HIV/AIDS and sexual health problems that young people are facing today, hoping to increase their peers’ awareness on such issues.

Andrea Cairola, from UNESCO’s Beijing Office, echoed UNESCO’s Deputy Director-General, Getachew Engida, by saying that the web is not just a technical and technological issue but also a human and social one. He also highlighted that “coding” is becoming an essential tool, opening up many new opportunities for learning, so that young people can do more than just “read” new technologies - but also create them.

Using new media innovatively to increase young people knowledge on HIV and AIDS and sexual health has been the focus of the Beijing Office efforts since 2012. In China there are 780,000 people living with HIV; 80% of 48,000 new infections in 2011 were through sexual transmission. New HIV infections among young students are also increasing, almost 90% of which are through sexual transmission. Studies show that, though most youth have had pre-marital sex, less than 5% of them possess comprehensive knowledge on sexual and reproductive health, and less than 15% of them know how to prevent HIV infection.

In recent years, HIV and AIDS and sexuality education for teenagers and young adults has developed alongside the fast development of ICTs, with Internet becoming a major channel. Over 64% of Chinese adolescents and young adults (10-29) are Internet-users and their most preferred methods for accessing knowledge about sexuality, and HIV and AIDS are search engines and online user-generated Q&A platforms, according to a review conducted with the support of UNESCO.

On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2013, UNESCO also supported, together with partners, the launch of dedicated channels on China’s most popular online services to raise awareness on accurate and comprehensive HIV and sexuality education knowledge, including a professional Q&A channel on Baidu Zhidao/Knows (query-based searchable online community), a professional page on Baidu Baike (online encyclopedia), and an online classroom on Iqiyi (video hosting service) with  short educational videos featuring China’s most influential experts and scholars.

In August 2013, more than 30 teams from 16 universities in Beijing submitted proposals for new media products and five teams were selected to participate in a capacity building workshop in December 2013. The workshop provided students an opportunity to develop and improve their original product design with senior IT, new media experts and creativity thinking mentors, as well as a chance to get sensitized on HIV and sexuality knowledge.