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Today has been one of those days, where everything just seems to be working against me. Ok the start might have been me being too sensitive – we’re women, these things happen – but when I asked my office to send a driver to pick me up from my house (my car is in the shop), no one bothered to inform me that there wasn’t a driver around to pick me up… Until I called back 30 minutes later. So the lack of communication cheesed me off – it was one of my co-directors, that’s all I’m saying.

Then I finally get into the office to find my key staff out of the office when we have client deliverables to meet, and with most of our clients we only get paid when we deliver, and I’m not happy when cash is not coming in – why run a business just to spend money?

And as the day progressed it just all snowballed. Then suddenly just after lunch, it was like everything was well in the world again. I was starting to feel at ease and ready to start promoting episode 2 of Love Games for tomorrow’s broadcast.

censure

Then my phone starts ringing from the client, despite not knowing what she could possibly want – I like to have an idea of what a client will want before answering the call, so I’m prepared lol – but this time, I had no clue, we are on top of everything that needs to be done.

She hits me with the national broadcaster, ZNBC, won’t air episode 2 in the way it currently it is, because of a kissing scene they think goes on too long.

Erm, is that the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard?

I call ZNBC to find out what they’re on about and I get this explanation about broadcast boards, viewer comments etc. So would I be willing to go to them to supervise the edit? It’s not like I have a choice right?

As I hung up – feeling beaten yet again – I realised how fundamentally flawed this country is. Every day in the papers is a case of gender based violence, of a clergy man having an affair, of young girls being defiled, and then the not so public stories of Ministers and their extra-marital affairs, of women using their body for material gain and all sorts.

And this makes me angry. Nationally we have an HIV prevalence rate of about 14%, but new trends suggest HIV can be on the rise again. And what is driving our epidemic is things like multiple and concurrent sexual partners, and low and inconsistent condom use. Further more evidence suggests that HIV education and prevention works!

But we don’t want to call a spade a spade. If a kiss is shown on national TV – after 8pm – that is considered pornographic and corrupting the morals of our youth! Are you kidding me?

Do these same people read the papers? Walk through the townships to see babies having babies?

When are we going to stop being ashamed of sex and our sexuality and embrace it for what it can be, a positive part of who we are?

And in the case of HIV, how can we address prevention if we can’t openly and honestly talk about sex? ZNBC is the gateway to the masses. It is the only broadcaster that reaches the majority of Zambians, across socio-economic barriers and yet their own self-censure is what is a barrier to addressing some very real issues.

You won’t really feel my pain until you watch episode 2 (will put it online tomorrow night) and see what they want to censor, but right now, I had to have my say.

Time for me to end this day and hope for a better one tomorrow.

One Love

The last week (oh it’s only wednesday) has been very interesting as I’m in the planning stages of a new production I’m working on (can’t wait to announce it), but after conversations with several people, I realise there are some very serious problems in prevention initiatives and no surprises that people are still getting infected.

Ok, I’m obviously simplifying the issues, but some of the things I see or hear really does make me think hmmmm.

I was looking at the messaging we’re focusing on for this show and it struck me that none of it is new. Not the messages of use a condom, or you can live long, healthy, productive lives if you test positive, or don’t have sex or don’t exchange sex for gifts blah blah blah. So my question to the people debriefing us was, why aren’t these messages working? I don’t want to flog a dead horse and make no impact by focussing on the same messages.

It made me think about the paper my sister wrote for her thesis (ok I didn’t read the whole paper – don’t hate me Tasha!), but I know it was along the lines of how our interpersonal relationships and emotions affect the risks we take. In other words, we know on a rational level the risks involved, but when you’re emotionally invested, you might do something stupid.

Yet rarely in HIV prevention campaigns do we talk about the emotional side of risk taking. I think there are other dynamics as well, such as low self-esteem, lack of personality personal identity and lack of a level of selfishness that puts ourselves first. Some of these are learnt as children and also developed as you mature (but usually post your early 20s). So if the foundation is weak, how can we try and rebuild from the middle of the structure?

And we can’t forget the environments we live in, if we can change the society then maybe we can find a way to get through these messages. But we also have to be honest and not judge people. For example, we need to be clear about the you can live a long and productive life if you test positive, as long as you take care of your health and have the healthcare infrastructure to support this, because let’s be honest, we’ve seen some people who have died within a few years of testing positive. Of course these can be explained, in most cases, but too often we want to gloss over any potentially uncomfortable or ‘sad’ information that might scare people or make them question what you’re telling them. But people aren’t stupid. If you give them all the information they can process it and make informed decisions or understand what happens when things don’t go as planned.

Or if you’re involved in multiple concurrent relationships, don’t tell people they are bad people for being in the relationship – make them safe, not ashamed.

If you tell them the nice, comfortable message and gloss over some of the facts, they don’t trust you – because it doesn’t add up. I’m losing my trail of thought here…

Anyway my point was that when it comes to HIV messaging, we’ve got to look beneath the layers and keep asking why until we get to the core. We need to stop jumping on the bandwagon of what the west powers that be in the HIV field say is the problem, or is the silver bullet. And there are some things that statistics can’t answer or capture – those are the issues of feelings and emotions that we need to learn to incorporate in everything we do. That is if we want to have impact and start making a difference in the HIV/AIDS response.