The use of theatre for development in the prevention of HIV/AIDS : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University
Over the last three decades development practitioners have begun to search for new theoretical approaches to the problems of underdevelopment. This has given rise to approaches that focus on the participation of people and their culture in development programs.
The teachings of Paulo Freire, latterly developed by Augusto Boal, gave voice to theatre that is participatory, provides two-way communication and aims to raise the critical awareness of spectators. This form of theatre is known as Theatre for Development. It aims to promote awareness of political, social and economic issues. Theatre for Development goes beyond the theatrical event giving people skills to confront problems and solve them.
The AIDS pandemic is a human tragedy that is threatening development in the world's poorest countries. In fact, 95 per cent of people with HIV or AIDS live in developing countries. HIV accentuates inadequacies that exist in health care infrastructures and highlights social and economic inequalities. There is no known cure for this disease but through systematic national programs that focus on preventing HIV transmission it is possible to significantly lower infection rates. Theatre should be part of any national HIV/AIDS program.
Theatre for Development is effective in communicating HIV/AIDS related information and promoting attitude changes. Theatre has many advantages as an educational technique; it engages participants, is appropriate to the local situation, adapts to indigenous cultures, assists with skill development and encourages discussion about sensitive issues.
In Vanuatu, Wan Smolbag theatre uses Theatre for Development to provide people with the knowledge and skills required to prevent HIV/AIDS infection. The mainstay of this Non Governmental Organisations' (NGO) work is short interactive theatre pieces of 20 to 50 minutes. In addition, WSB has created videos, radio dramas and educational materials. WSB's HIV/AIDS theatre is based on the Freiran concepts of participation and dialogue. As a consequence, the group's theatre reflects the lives of its participants and is proving that theatre can be a powerful tool for improving people's knowledge of HIV/AIDS.