British Author, Illustrator Distribute Book Explaining HIV/AIDS to South African Children
A children's book explaining HIV transmission is being distributed free of charge to 20,000 adolescents in South Africa, AP/Newsday reports. British author Fran Balkwill, together with British illustrator Mic Rolph, created the book, "Staying Alive, Fighting HIV/AIDS," after speaking with South African children about HIV/AIDS. "They essentially wrote the book for us," Balkwill said, adding that the children all wanted to know about HIV transmission and wondered if there was a vaccine or a cure for HIV/AIDS. The book, written for children ages 11 to 17, "explicit[ly]" explains that HIV is most often transmitted through sexual activity and "emphasizes" safe sex, according to AP/Newsday. The book's illustrations show a cartoon penis wearing a variety of condoms and depict HIV as a "green pock-faced monster with red eyes and fangs." In addition to explaining the science of HIV in "simple" terms, Balkwill outlines the "ABCs" of safe sex: abstinence, being faithful and using condoms (Kraft, AP/Newsday, 7/28). The current edition of the book is a revised version of the first draft because some South African HIV/AIDS educators said that the first version was not explicit enough to be useful. Balkwill and Rolph, who have together created 12 children's books, were "urged" by South African-born immunologist Siamon Gordon of the University of Oxford to create the book. "I am under no illusion that this book will change events in South Africa," Balkwill said, adding, "I do hope that this will be one small cog on a complex wheel that will reverse this trend" (Talan, Newsday, 7/19). South African HIV/AIDS activists "welcomed" the book, and Balkwill hopes to raise enough money to translate the book into other languages and offer it to children in other nations with HIV/AIDS epidemics (AP/Newsday, 7/28). Selected text and images from the book can be viewed online at http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hschs0719gallery.photogallery.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.