The idea of creating a global webtool for youth that focused on HIV & AIDS and the arts was initiated by McGill University in Montréal, Canada, and sponsored by UNESCO. It all began in 2006 when a comprehensive world-wide study of over 300 youth groups with an online presence revealed the importance of "getting the word out" about HIV & AIDS through creative approaches including photography, hip hop, graffiti, music, storytelling, radio drama, theatre, and film. The need for a web forum to promote and expand the artistic work of these youth groups was the driving force behind the development of YAHAnet. McGill University partnered with the University of Toronto in Canada and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to get the website "live".
Our Hopes and Goals:
By recognizing and facilitating the importance of artistic expression and social media in the everyday lives of youth, YAHAnet empowers youth to take action on HIV and AIDS.
We believe that each member of this website has a special role to play in AIDS awareness and education. This includes uploading an artistic message to the gallery, joining an online workgroup, or using a how-to guide to create a new artistic message. Each YAHAnet member can transform how gender, sexual rights, and cultural taboos are addressed in the HIV and AIDS response!
YAHAnet is open to all young people—and youth-serving organisations—from around the world who are able to access the Internet. Online membership is free of charge. YAHAnet's on-the-ground presence through workshops and conferences is limited to Canada and South Africa at present. YAHAnet's one and only office is located in the Department of Education at McGill University in Montréal, Canada.
Over 50 people from around the world were involved in the development of YAHAnet. It was conceived by McGill professors Dr. Claudia Mitchell, Dr. Bronwen Low, and Dr. Michael Hoechsmann, and ideas and support for the project were provided by student interns, graduate students, and professors at the University of Toronto and McGill University, both in Canada, and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
After YAHAnet's test launch, student web programmer Stephen Hopkins created an updated framework for the webtool in late 2008 based on design input from members of the YAHAnet student team. The webtool has always been maintained, updated, promoted, and expanded by youth interns located in Montreal, Canada, under the leadership of a Project Coordinator.
The YAHAnet Team is currently led by Dr. Claudia Mitchell from McGill University in collaboration with Project Coordinator John Murray.
YAHAnet acknowledges all the interns who are no longer involved with the webtool but who generously donated their time, energy, and skills to the project. A special thanks goes out to the former Project Coordinator, Caitlin Tanner.
The YAHAnet Partnership:
In 2010, YAHAnet became a project of The Participatory Cultures Lab at McGill University.
An Overview of What YAHAnet Has to Offer:
- video, audio, and image galleries where each member, workgroup, or organization can display artistic creations relating to HIV and AIDS
- online workgroups where members can discuss arts-based awareness and make new partnerships for planning and hosting online and on-the-ground events
- how-to guides on using specific art forms to educate about HIV & AIDS and decrease stigma and discrimination
- a searchable database of research studies and reports on social change, the arts, and sexual health
- an event calendar where members can promote their local, national, or global initiatives
- surveys, quizzes, and featured projects/activities to generate on-going interest