In 2014, a group of extraordinary and eclectic musicians from Colorado, New Orleans and Nashville came together for the First Annual iKnow Concert on Lake Bunyonyi in Southern Uganda. Performing with a cadre of talented and wild local musicians and rising stars on the East Africa music scene, more than 4,000 people turned out for the free concert and a record 826 received free HIV testing. The concept of this idea and innovation behind this free concert is to create HIV awareness and prevention in communities that are sometimes very hard to reach.
Planning the first festival in partnership with the U.S. Mission to Uganda and Reach-a-Hand Uganda, we learned that when you invite thousands of people to be a part of something special, some amazing things can happen. We tested people and provided services to people who rarely ever have an opportunity to access health services anywhere.
Between 2014 and 2016, with the generous help of the U.S. Mission to Uganda and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, we expanded to a second city (Lira, Uganda), more than 38,000 people attended the concerts, 7,500 received a free HIV test. More than 100 performers played on stage, hundreds of thousands of condoms were distributed, and thousands of dollars were invested directly into local communities.
So we did it even bigger in 2017. We expanded to a third city (Masaka, Uganda). A combined 44,000 people attended the three concerts and were exposed to HIV prevention messages; 8,089 people received a free HIV test; over 1 million people were reached through social media; and countless more watched coverage of the concerts live on NBS, a national television network in Uganda. More than 230,000 condoms were distributed, and other health services such as cervical cancer screenings and family planning services were offered.
This means in just four years, 79,000 people have attended our free concerts and over 15,500 people have received a free HIV test!
As the concert series continues to grow in partnership with our partners at Reach-a-Hand Uganda, we look forward to providing year round medical services, spreading the same positive public health message and economic impact to the people of Uganda.
The iKnow Concert Series is one of the largest events that happens in these communities each year. It brings the community together through music and the arts, promotes public health, economic development and culture sharing. It requires collaboration with local organizations, clinics and musical artists. And the feedback from the people of Uganda has been overwhelmingly positive.
Planning is already underway for our 2018 shows! For more information or to get involved, please visit www.iknowconcertseries.org!