Vagner João Benício de Almeida - Bio
|Vagner João Benício de
Almeida is a specialist in HIV/AIDS prevention. He was born in
the city of Petrópolis in the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In
1972, at the age of 15, he began working as a volunteer in the Movimento
de Ação Secundarista (MAS), developing literacy programs for
poor communities in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil. Even before
finishing his studies, he began working as an actor, writer and director,
using theater and artistic performance to address a range of different social
issues in Brazil.
In 1983, he traveled to the United States to study in Berkeley, California, where he first became involved in AIDS-related work. After returning to Brazil, in 1988 and 1989, he wrote and directed two of the first plays produced in the country about HIV and AIDS, Adeus Irmão, Durma Sossegado (1988) and Estou Vivo (1989). In 1990, he became part of a research team in the Institute of Social Medicine of the State University of Rio de Janeiro, focusing on the social dimensions of HIV/AIDS, and in 1993, he began working at ABIA (the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association), one of the leading AIDS service, research and advocacy organizations in Brazil.
For the past decade, he has been a project coordinator at ABIA, working on projects that use theater and art for HIV/AIDS prevention education. He created a Workshop in Expressionist Theater, Sexuality and AIDS, and over the course of the 1990s developed Cabaret Prevenção – first implemented as a theatrical review, followed by the publication of a book and the production of a video documenting the elaboration and production of the play. In 1997, he spent time working for Population Services International in Maputo, Mozambique, where he produced a series of videos for AIDS prevention and condom promotion programs, and in 2002 he returned to work with the National AIDS Program in the Ministry of Health of Mozambique on training and capacity building for HIV/AIDS prevention work.
Since 2000, he has coordinated ABIA’s Youth and Sexual Diversity Project, an ongoing program focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention for young men who have sex with men in communities of color in Rio de Janeiro, including writing a book and producing a video titled Ritos e Ditos de Jovens Gays (Rites and Sayings of Young Gay Men) based on the project’s activities. He has also worked in a range of other cities and rural areas throughout Brazil, advising community-based organizations and state and local AIDS programs on prevention and outreach work directed to youth, men who have sex with men, sex workers and people living with HIV and AIDS.
Since 2002, he has worked as a Staff Associate in the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Health in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, where he has been involved in a range of projects, including training activities for MTCT-Plus in Beira, Mozambique, workshops on HIV/AIDS for the Brazilian Rainbow Group and GAPP (the HIV+ Support Group in Portuguese) at GMHC, and action research projects on sexual health and rights internationally.
His recent productions include The Butterflies, a film showing the life of homosexual youth in the outskirts of metropolitan cities, suffering from the effects of poverty and misery, without compromising their dignity and their creativity; Living Day By Day, a film about a massacre of transgender youth in Brazil in 2005; and Homophobia in School, an educational film about the discrimination and stigma against homosexuals in public schools in Brazil. Produced by ABIA and supported by UNESCO and Ministry of Health of Brazil.
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