Zimbabwe: ZBC-TV to Screen HIV, Aids Series supported by Soul City

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Untold Stories in a Time of HIV and Aids, a series of nine feature films, starts showing on ZBC-TV beginning this Saturday at 8:30pm. The series, launched at Elite 100 by Harare regional education director Tomax Dhoba, was co-ordinated by the Zimbabwe Action Trust and supported by Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication based in South Africa.

Zimbabwe's entry in the series, Chipo's Promise, features former radio personality James Maridadi and debutante Ruth Chitsinde of Gateway School as lead actress. The films address a number of themes exploring love, hope, courage, betrayal, secrets and lies in the lives of ordinary people living with HIV and Aids.

Caroline Majonga, the Action programmes manager, said although the stories told in the films are for Africans by Africans, they have universal themes that any individual can in any country can relate to. "The films address a number of themes in and around the area of HIV and Aids, including stigma, discrimination, gender violence, multiple and concurrent partnerships.

"The power in these films is in the fact that the nature of HIV and Aids is that it does not pick and choose according to race, religion, ethnic or language group . . .and that in order for us to achieve an Aids-free generation we need to understand its nature and know that every single individual in this region has to be involved," she said.

Majonga said the project was the first of its kind and the largest locally developed HIV and Aids prevention programme on the continent. "The Sadc region is the most affected by HIV globally. According to UNAids, 40 percent of all people living with HIV reside in this region.

Director of Zimbabwe Action Trust Pyke Chari said the project was unique because Action had for the first time managed to produce a multimedia programme to complement messages depicted in print media. "We see this as an important development in our march towards complementing the efforts of Government ministries and several organisations in the fight against HIV and Aids which is impacting greatly on the family unit," he said.

Conceived in 2002, the project was a capacity-building initiative involving 11 writers and nine producers drawn from across Southern Africa who underwent an intensive eight-month training in scriptwriting and film production which was facilitated by Curios Pictures, a production company working with Soul City.

Chipo's Promise depicts the hardships Aids orphans face and is based on research conducted in selected provinces in Zimbabwe. "The need for this development is based on the fact that about 19 percent of the child population in Zimbabwe are orphans and a large percentage of these children have lost their parents to HIV and Aids.

Apart from its involvement in the film programme, the organisation has, through its partnership with Soul City over the past six years, produced more than four million booklets and a radio drama. Dorothy Meck of Afro Vision, the production company behind award-winning film Tanyaradzwa, and Curios Pictures directed the Zimbabwean production.

Some films that are part of the series are Rebel Rhymes from Botswana done by Choose Life, The Test (Malawi), Mapule's Choice (Lesotho), The Storm (Mozambique), Secrets and Lies (South Africa), Ulendo waRose (Zambia), Batjele (Tell Them) (Swaziland) and Between Friends (Namibia).

The Herald (Harare) 22 August 2008