The following post was written by Madeline Marmor, student intern at Art for AIDS International.

This weekend, Henrikus Bervoets, our Founder and Executive Director, received a sobering email call from Soweto from a dear friend.

The friend was a scholarship student who Art for AIDS International has had an ongoing relationship with. As a former workshop participant, our friend had become a scholarship student in hopes of attending university. Although she was unable to attend University for numerous reasons, she was still able to upgrade her education using Art for AIDS International funding.

A passionate youthful personality, our friend created numerous pieces in workshops with Hendrikus, later becoming a volunteer for the charity on future trips to Soweto. Among the six pieces she created, two are on the Apartheid Museum poster in our London gallery.

The phone call shared the sad news that our friend’s brother has committed suicide after finding out he was HIV positive last Saturday. He had not told anyone about the result, taking his own life alone with this information.

This tragedy speaks to the social stigma HIV and AIDS still has in Africa with those diagnosed feeling burdened by the shame of being sick. This psyche needs to be combated with the knowledge that there is always someone who cares and that there is always someone to talk to.

The more workshops we do, the better chances are for this to happen less. If this person was part of a workshop, we could have fostered the confidence and self-respect to be able to talk to someone.

We at Art for AIDS International believe workshops can actually save people’s lives.  In fact, we have seen it. Her brother’s death is motivation for us to keep putting effort towards organizing workshops, knowing the benefit they will bring.

One step forward in this will be our  ‘Train the Trainers’ program.  These are newly formed workshops, where Art for AIDS International will train young, unemployed university graduates in parts of Africa where we have already held workshops to run our programs under the auspices of our organization, independent of London’s actual presence. In this way, soon we will be able to organize workshops in the hundreds rather than in the twenty’s.

Our friend’s email not only relayed this sad news but it also acted as a renewed call to action for all of us at Art for AIDS International to keep working towards helping women and children affected by HIV and AIDS.