Dr. Edward Jenner inoculates James Phipps, the first person to receive the smallpox vaccine (Alexia Sinclair; copyright Alexia Sinclair 2014)

Dr. Edward Jenner inoculates James Phipps, the first person to receive the smallpox vaccine (Alexia Sinclair; copyright Alexia Sinclair 2014) Img Credit: Philanthropy News Digest

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has recently launched an initiative that unites musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters, sculptors, and photographers in support of the GAVI Alliance’s vaccine efforts. More than thirty artist from more than twenty countries have been recruited to portray pieces of artwork conveying the deep history and impact of vaccination. “The Art of Saving a Life” will be released online in the days leading up to a conference hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel; The goal of the fundraiser is to raise $7.5 billion in support of efforts to immunize three hundred million children from 2016-2020 and to prevent five to six million deaths.

Recently, Dr. De Groot, director of URI’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics and founder of the Global Alliance to Immunize Against AIDS (GAIA) Vaccine Foundation was awarded $100,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to run a campaign to raise awareness of HPV vaccination as a means of protecting against cervical cancer. The vaccination effort will work as a grassroots social media campaign by which women receiving the vaccine will receive a decorative cloth.  After a flash of inspiration, Dr. De Groot connected with Eliza Squibb, the current Executive Director at GAIA, and a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), who spent time in North Africa and Peruvian Amazon, to produce a piece of African cloth depicting the deadliness of the Human Papillomavirus associated with cervical cancer.  Squibb produced a striking pattern that depicted healthy uteruses, surrounded by the HPV virus. The cloth is now being using as a representation of the campaigns efforts to bring awareness of cervical cancer to the African community.

In line with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s commitment to using art as a means of raising health awareness, the GAIA Vaccine Foundation and Dr. De Groot will continue its efforts to improve human health by engaging individuals by using various forms of media.