A FRIEND WRITES . . .
Club Risky Business: HIV Prevention finally comes home?
By Mannasseh Phiri
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA — On the evening of Tuesday 16th June, the corridors leading to Ster Kinekor Cinema at Arcades were dressed for the Oscars – red carpet, lights, TV cameras to boot. The people – especially the women – walking the red carpet were dressed for the Oscars. The long colourful gowns were out.
The occasion was the launch of the TV mini-series called CLUB Risky Business – by the National AIDS Council, the Ministry of Health and donor funded agencies like Society for Family Health (SFH), Health Communications Partnership (HCP) and Zambia Centre for Communications Partnerships (ZCCP).
Club Risky Business is only one part and the beginning of a multimedia campaign called onelove – kwasila! – aimed at reducing the spread of HIV infections through multiple concurrent sexual partnerships (MCP). It will air on ZNBC three times a week (one episode repeated) Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 19:45 hrs and Muvi TV on Tuesdays at 21:30 and Saturdays at 19:00.
We have known since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in Zambia that HIV infections spread through the risky business of sex – especially risky unprotected sex with casual partners. As a result there have been many donor driven programmes to address and try to reduce risk ridden sexual behaviour.
More recently, and as we have come to know and understand our own HIV epidemic better, we have come to understand that what we have regarded as risky sexual behaviour is risky still, but it doesn’t make as significant a contribution to new HIV infections as what we have always regarded as ‘non-risky’ sexual behaviour. Sex in marriages and in regular long-lasting relationships has not, till recently, been regarded as risky business. Now we know that a much more significant number of new infections is taking place in marriages and other regular long term sexual relationships.
We have been concentrating our time, resources and attention in the wrong direction. No wonder new infections have continued so many years into the epidemic and despite all that is being done.
The story of Club Risky Business is centred on three ordinary everyday Zambian men, the women in their lives, their sexual behaviour, and a wise old barman called Sam, in a club (Club Risky Business) that they frequent and pour out their troubles and woes. Sam gives advice – and narrates their stories to the TV audience asking questions of the audience. It is clever and compelling TV, the likes of which we have not seen in Zambia before.
Club Risky Business brings the reality of the impact of multiple concurrent partnerships on people’s lives and on the direction of Zambia’s HIV epidemic. It is not preachy or moralistic. It just tells the story of Zambian men and women in a way that every adult seeing the series will identify with – without embarrassment.
Finally in Zambia, we have HIV prevention being brought down from boardrooms and conference halls, from corridors of ministries and donor agencies – into where it belongs, and that is where most HIV infections take place – our homes. Finally the frank and open national conversation around HIV that those of us in HIV work have called for can begin to happen.
HIV Prevention has finally come home – our homes.
Mannasseh Phiri, M.D., is an HIV and AIDS activist, broadcaster and writer.
Researchers, Reporters Find Common Ground in Zambia’s Tuberculosis Epidemic . . .
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA — With at least 800 people out of every 100,000 living with tuberculosis in Lusaka alone, stories of this once-conquered disease surround us — everywhere except in the local news reports. And with the 7th highest rate of incidence of TB among HIV-positive people worldwide serving as a sign that a serious threat to public health is not being addressed where it can do the most harm, Zambia’s TB epidemic should be in the news.
That was the need that a joint Panos Relay, TARGETS AND ZAMBART workshop sought to address this week bringing researchers together with reporters to explore stories and the challenges to telling them.
The Wednesday and Thursday get-together at the Cresta Golfview Hotel included opportunities for journalists to talk off the record with researchers, and find common ground for what essentially can be a fruitful collaboration.
But you don’t need to have spent two days in a hotel conference room to reap the benefits of this event. For information on how to link with researchers who can help you tell Zambia’s TB stories contact:
- Gillies Kasongo at Panos: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Justin O’Brien at ZAMBART: email@example.com
- Alexandra Hyde at TARGET: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maternal health a human right . . .
With the Human Rights Council acknowledging that maternal mortality is a human rights issue, this is a great peg for a story on efforts to address the high rates of childbirth-related deaths in Zambia.
Another missing link in Zambia’s HIV response . . .
Problems addressing the link between HIV and injecting drug use are noted in Zambia’s midterm strategy report, so this mention in Lancet is timely, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673609610928/fulltext?rss=yes