June 8, 2012 | The Editors

Milestones: magnet theater

We’ve been featuring some of the most notable achievements in our history, including developing one of the first feasible approaches to nonreusable syringes for immunizations and building a rapid, affordable test for HIV. Now, here’s the sixth in our series on PATH’s milestones.

2001 to present

The health challenge: Changing attitudes and behaviors to prevent HIV transmission is difficult in developing countries where subjects such as sex and gender relations may not be openly discussed.

Man with arms out stands in front of sitting crowd of men who watch him closely.
A magnet theatre performance in South Africa, 2006. Photo: PATH/Mike Wang.

What we did: PATH pioneered an approach for using interactive community theater performances, called magnet theater, to encourage behavior change. PATH-trained actors stage performances in central gathering places to explore issues such as HIV/AIDS, family planning, tuberculosis prevention, and the consequences of early marriage, and to encourage discussion and problem-solving among audience members. The performances lay the groundwork for new attitudes and social norms to take root.

The result: Magnet theater has been used to reach parents in Benin, sex workers in India, and teens in Kenya, and has produced some of PATH’s most visible examples of behavior change.

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