HIV tree: Aids awareness ‘tree-shirt’ a hit with locals

2009-12-01 00:00

THIS year, one wore a T-shirt. Next year, expect a variety of trees in and around Pietermaritzburg to be decked out in assorted outfits representing the cultural diversity that can be found in the city.

So what can residents expect next year? “Maybe a sari or a Zulu outfit,” said Msunduzi Municipality employee Evasen Pillay, the man behind the concept.

Pillay’s innovative idea of dressing up a tree as a way to sustain awareness around the HIV and Aids pandemic has been a glorified hit with local residents.

The tree has been renamed H.I.Victree.

“No one wants to go see an Aids Tree so we renamed it. This unusual marketing tool is not about solving HIV, but it’s about capturing media and public’s attention regarding the disease,” said Pillay.

The fact that the chosen tree is situated on Prince Alfred Street is by no means a coincidence. Councillor Najma Ahmed said the street is an obvious choice because it is widely known that prostitution is rife there.

Residents will have until Saturday to visit the tree, write messages on it and collect free condoms on the site before the decorations are taken down.

Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo said it was disconcerting to get a report yesterday morning that the tree has been vandalised. She urged residents not to desecrate the tree as a lot of time and effort has gone into creating it.

Hlatshwayo, the KZN premier and other senior officials will be at the Lay Centre in Edendale from 10 am to noon today.

They will be tested for HIV in the hope of encouraging others to do the same.

“We must start practising what we preach,” said Ahmed.

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