“Here we are in Boston leading privileged lives,” says graphic design instructor Rita Daly. “What can art students do to influence the lives of the world’s 40 million HIV-positive people? It seems like an impossible task, however, any small step is worth the effort.”

Since the Spring of 2004, students in Daly’s Graphic Design II class at the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University have been assigned projects dealing with sustainability, both environmental and social.

One project addresses the design of posters directed to partners of HIV-positive pregnant women. This project was inspired by the work of Mary Jo O’Hara, an international AIDS educator. Her work takes her to India, China and Sub-Saharan Africa, where 29 million of the world’s 40 million HIV-positive people reside. She needed simple, powerful visuals that could be used to stimulate discussion among health care clinicians who work with HIV-positive women and their partners.

After intense research, students, in teams of two, produced posters based on their own concept conclusions. PDF files of their work were sent to O’Hara in Namibia. She shared the students’ work with colleagues, who viewed and evaluated the images sent.

Tim Enright and Gregory Mill’s poster image was received enthusiastically by O’Hara’s Namibian colleagues. They felt that it portrayed men as powerful influences in the health and care of their children. The image was included in a draft curriculum being used to train nurses and midwives who provide care to pregnant women throughout Namibia. Used as a ‘trigger’ to generate discussion, the image helps healthcare providers find strategies to educate men about their important role in their babies’ health.
The image has since been included in a curriculum on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, used in the 56 nursing schools in Tanzania.

“A success story?” asks Daly. “Yes. We, as graphic designers, have the powerful talent of communication. We need to realize our gift and use it to improve life as often as we can.”

For more information, contact Rita Daly, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and instructor of Graphic Design II

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