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Ukrainian Teenagers “Say NO to Drugs” through Art Competition

Over 3,000 Ukrainian children and teenagers submitted drawings, collages, videos, articles, and even fairytales to an All-Ukrainian Art Contest entitled “I Say NO to Drugs!” for children aged nine to 15. The USAID-funded Ukrainian Media Partnership to Combat HIV/AIDS (UMP) partnered with corporate sponsors and governmental authorities in organizing this nationwide initiative to raise awareness of drug use—a major factor contributing to the growing HIV epidemic in Ukraine. With a significant percentage of drug users in Ukraine estimated to be between the ages of 16 and 17, sexual health education programs for teenagers are crucial in improving their awareness of HIV and reducing the number of new infections.

 Nineteen finalists received awards for their outstanding works of art and their commitment to “saying NO to drugs.” Ms. Victoria Kravets, who studies at an orphanage in Oleksandrivka, Ukraine, received the Grand Prize for her collage “Let’s Color Our Future.” In addition to finalists, competition organizers, and a representative of the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, the famous Ukrainian pop singer and teen idol Anzhelika Rudnytska attended the ceremony in support of the initiative.

On the day of the award ceremony, competition organizers went on Ukrainian television to inform the public about HIV and drug use. UMP Program Manager Konstyantyn Ryzhkov and Foxtrot’s Public Relations Deputy Director joined KRT TV for a 30-minute program on Morning with KRT. Mr. Ryzhkov explained the link between drug use and HIV and elaborated on the critical role mass media plays in HIV prevention.  

In addition to increasing awareness of drug use and HIV/AIDS by engaging young Ukrainians, the event also demonstrated the results that public-private partnerships can have in reaching wider audiences and achieving effective results. In implementing the “I Say NO to Drugs!” competition, UMP partnered with the Ukrainian group of companies Foxtrot, Pryhody magazine, the Ministry of Education and Science, and the Kyiv Center of Social Services for Families Youth and Children.

UMP, with its local partner the Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS, is mobilizing the communication power and reach of mass media to improve awareness of HIV/AIDS, and ways to prevent it, among Ukrainians and specific groups—such as youth and injecting drug users—and to give a voice to people living with HIV/AIDS. Since 2006, UMP has been collaborating with local, regional and national media partners, while also training journalists on the HIV epidemic, in order to educate the public and reduce the stigma often associated with the virus.