Airwaves, TV and print raise AIDS awareness in South Africa
By Benita van Eyssen Dec 1, 2006, 12:27 GMT
Johannesburg - Millions of South Africans watched when Nandipha received the devastating news that she was HIV positive. They saw her break the news to her husband and were there when the young couple contemplated the future in the face of the disease.
Viewers listened when Nandipha's doctor gave her the lowdown on what to expect as a patient with the incurable and life-threatening disease, the diet she should adhere to and why she ought to avoid stress.
They followed with interest as the inspiringly determined young woman embarked on a television career despite the diagnosis, and began managing the disease with potentially life-prolonging AIDS drugs.
The trials and tribulations of Nandipha's life as it has played out in the daily local soap opera, Isidingo, in the last couple of years is well known to television viewers in the country where more than 5.5 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS.
The actress who portrays Nandipha appears keen to tackle the next chapter, when she is expected to develop full-blown AIDS.
Nandipha's story and the way in which it reaches South Africa illustrate how the country is using television and other media to shed the stigma, misinformation and fear surrounding the disease and ultimately serve as a valuable educational tool.
Aside from Isidingo, several other broadcast dramas and print media supplements dedicated absolutely or in part to AIDS awareness and prevention compete for public attention.
Adults, teenagers and young children alike are increasingly targeted with messages about the disease through television, radio, newspapers, magazines, comics and posters.
A recent study on growing awareness of AIDS prevention, detection and treatment found that the combined campaign was having a profound effect on attitudes among ordinary people.
Local and international researchers from other institutions including Johns Hopkins University in the United States said that at least 50 per cent of South Africans seeking HIV/AIDS tests in the last year had been influenced by various broadcasts or print campaigns.
The study, in which 8,000 respondents were quizzed, singled out television programmes such as the popular weekly drama Tsha Tsha and the long-running Soul City and Soul Buddyz series that reach millions regularly as being particularly influential.
Researchers also noted that radio and television programmes that included the issue of AIDS, helped to create an environment conducive to community discussion on the disease, leadership at local level and support for those living with the disease.
About three years ago, South Africa introduced the Muppet character Kami, who is HIV-positive, on its daily Thakalani Sesame programme to help children understand the disease. The fluffy character has addressed a host of AIDS-related issues in his bid to win children's hearts.
A locally produced Zulu-language feature film has since highlighted the issue of HIV/AIDS in groundbreaking manner. The film about the experiences of a young infected mother was nominated for a foreign language Oscar shortly after its release.
Characters featured in the growing number of television and radio programmes on AIDS prevention and infection, the consequences and treatment for the disease into the public domain, have become familiar faces.
Depending on how they are affected by AIDS, South Africans draw comfort, guidance and hope from Nandipha and the kind of gripping entertainment expected from any soap drama worth its salt.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur