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Sunday 16 July 2006
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SOUTH AFRICA: Soap star on drugs!

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Hlubi Mboya as Nandipha Matabane: Changing negative perceptions about HIV/AIDS

JOHANNESBURG, 12 July (PLUSNEWS) - In a first for South African television, a popular soap opera is to write an HIV-positive character in the stage of AIDS infection into the story.

Greig Coetzee, head writer of the daily show, 'Isidingo', hoped the move would help break down the stigma against HIV/AIDS and raise awareness about the progression and treatment of the disease.

He told PlusNews that the character, Nandipha Matabane, would have been living with the HI virus for some time and would need to start antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

"The character has been part of a step-by-step aim to keep our viewers informed on every aspect of what it would be like to live with HIV and then AIDS," he said.

Coetzee suggested that with recent advances in treatment availability, there was a sense that AIDS was not taken as seriously as it was before, and to some degree people were now even a bit "blasé" about it.

"Some people either ignore it, or even have a fatalistic approach. Our aim is to show the public and our throngs of viewers [estimated at about a million] that it is possible to live with AIDS and manage it. We plan on keeping the character as real as possible."

Nandipha, who is one of the programme's most appealing characters, has been kidnapped, sexually assaulted by an abusive ex-boyfriend and lost her baby ... before being diagnosed with HIV.

"But despite the odds being against her, she was able to move beyond the discrimination ... this already speaks of the everyday situation of most women, not just in South Africa, but across the globe," Coetzee commented.

Research showed that one in four South African women have been raped or are suffering domestic violence.

In a speech to mark International Women's Day earlier this year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that as a result of such retrogressive behaviour, more than half of all adults living with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women.

Actress Hlubi Mboya, who plays Nandipha, shared these sentiments, and noted that the situation also helped her in getting into character. "Aside from the plight of the millions of people who are living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, I was also able to relate to the experiences of those people close to me that are affected by this pandemic," she told PlusNews.

Mboya was concerned by the huge number of people who were either in denial or sceptical about the life-prolonging benefits of ARVs.

An estimated six million South Africans are living with HIV/AIDS - some 16 percent of the adult population - yet the stigma attached to the disease has caused many to avoid testing and treatment, and families routinely cover up the cause of death when a member succumbs to an AIDS-related illness.

"This has the driving force for how my character would deal with her progression from an HIV-positive status to advanced AIDS infection and back to a healthy life with HIV again. We want to prove to our audience that it is not a death sentence, and that with the proper care and support an infected person is able to live a long and productive life."

Warren Parker, executive director of the Centre for AIDS Development Research and Evaluation, welcomed the move by the show's producers to educate their viewers.

"People often speak of AIDS fatigue and being tired or bored of constantly hearing about the impact of the disease. This offers a fresh approach to how someone can cope with infection through the correct course of action," Parker said.

He was confident that the character's struggle and success with AIDS would have an impact on how her fans perceived HIV prevention, treatment and care. "It definitely helps in terms of role-modelling for viewers, most of whom are usually able to identify with certain characters and emulate their inspiring example."


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
Govt needs to close loopholes to protect kids ,  13/Jul/06
Contrasting HIV-positive lives,  30/Jun/06
New strategies needed to meet shortfalls says Global Fund report,  29/Jun/06
New AIDS threat looms,  19/Jun/06
Govt wants to monitor PEPFAR funding,  12/Jun/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

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