News / Africa

South African Viewers Hooked on AIDS-themed Show

Nandi Makhele, 25, poses for a portrait while wearing a T-shirt indicating that she is HIV-positive, in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township February 15, 2010.
Nandi Makhele, 25, poses for a portrait while wearing a T-shirt indicating that she is HIV-positive, in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township February 15, 2010.
Solenn Honorine
Sixty-nine percent of the people in the world infected with HIV-AIDS live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The situation is particularly dire in the southern part of the continent.  And in South Africa, an estimated 17 percent of adults live with the virus.  To address the issue, the health research center John Hopkins foundation has created an original and very popular TV show called Intersexions, broadcast on South African public TV channel SABC, that is currently in its second season.
 
A radiant young bride is getting ready to walk down the aisle, when she hears on the radio that a famous disc jockey is dying of AIDS.  He is a former lover, from a long time ago.  So what can she do?  She has had three lovers in her life.  But what can she tell the love of her life, a few hours before their wedding night?
 
Harriet Gavshon, producer of the hit TV show Intersexions, says that this is the type of situation that drives the HIV-AIDS pandemic.
 
“The original idea of Intersexions was to try and explain to young people the idea of a sexual network, the idea that once you sleep with somebody, you're entering a huge network of millions of people you don't know, so you should protect yourself," said Gavshon.

Gavshon says, like many popular TV shows, Intersexions hooks millions of people each week with its recipe of love, sex and secrets.  But its narrative is different: Instead a set cast of characters, it follows the progression of the evil virus through society.
 
“Each week we jump into a new milieu, from the city to the rural areas, to the prisons, to a club.  You know, every week you don't know where we're gonna turn up, because you don't know where the virus is gonna turn up.  You know, not to let anyone off the hook," she said. "Somewhere along the 26 episodes you will come across someone just like yourself."

Intersexions' innovative story-telling was internationally recognized last year when it won the prestigious, U.S.-based Peabody award, alongside hit American programs like Game of Thrones.

Catherine Chinyani, a nanny working in Johannesburg, is one of the 3 to 4.5 million people who tune in each week.  She says that the show strikes a sensitive chord.
 
“The other one that I watched, it was so touching," said Chinyani. "Because the nanny was in love with her boss, and later she was HIV positive.  Because her boss was saying “no no no no, we can't use a condom."  Maybe the boss promises to give you a lot of money, and then you get in bed with him without a condom.  And at the end of the day, you have the disease, and the money will never help you anymore.”

In South Africa, HIV-AIDS prevalence is particularly high among the young and sexually active: a third of women between 20 and 25 years old are infected by the virus, and research shows that the main driver of the pandemic is risky sexual behavior.

Lusanda Mahlasela, from the John Hopkins foundation, a health research center that initiates the project, says Intersexions' audience success lies partly in its ability to convey this message without patronizing the audience, she says.
 
“It's something we are constantly aware off.  And it becomes a fine line between trying to convey the message, and making sure you're not being judgmental and moralizing,” said Mahlasela.

One of the most contoversial episodes is from Intersexions' second season: a young lesbian living in a township is gang-raped by a group of thugs set to punish her for her lifestyle, something known as “corrective rape” in South Africa.  After her ordeal, she is in the hospital and is visited by a doctor.
 
“You're HIV negative," the doctor says. "Which means we're right on time to start an ARV course, just in case one of your attackers was HIV positive.  By taking ARV you're lessening your chances of getting the HIV virus, which we call post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP.”

Intersexions' main message is health, and it conveys practical information about the disease, how to avoid it and how to get treated.  It also aims at triggering discussion about HIV-AIDS.  It has a very strong presence on social networks where each episode is animatedly discussed by viewers.  Catherine Chinyani also says it makes her think about the disease.
 
“The other day, it was a guy who was so much in love with women," said Chinyani.  "You know, I've got also a son, and it taught me: you know, I should sit down with my son, and let him know: “look at what this one is doing, it's not good.  At the end of the day, he's got HIV."

South Africa is making strides to fight against the pandemic. In the past few years, it extended access to antiretroviral treatments to 1.7 million people, which means it can lengthen and better life with the virus. But in order to get the treatment, one must know his or her HIV status, which is also one point Intersexions tries to convey.

You May Like

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs