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Red in partnership with the Global Fund (I think) and HBO has produced this 30 minute documentary called the Lazarus Effect. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. The documentary shows the extraordinary effects treatment can have on people living with HIV. I have to admit, despite working in HIV prevention communication, I’ve never actually seen that happen, probably because most of the people I’ve seen that close to death, did die.

The documentary filmed in Zambia shows how in three months, people who looked skeletal and on the bring of death, when put on treatment, went back to putting on weight and looking healthy. The aim of the documentary is to show that treatment works and its needed. What the documentary didn’t talk about is how funding for treatment is running out. When you’re on treatment its for life, when you stop taking it, you can die – it’s as simple as that.

The fact that only a fraction of people who need treatment can afford it, or are on it with free meds is bad enough, but the fact that those already on treatment (through government or NGO programs), who knows how many more years treatment will be available – if governments continue to rely on foreign aid. Governments, especially African ones, need to be more responsible for their people without heavy reliance on foreign aid, because we need sustainable solutions.

And while they’re figuring out how to pay for treatment, they also need to figure out how to pay for intensive prevention campaigns, campaigns that work, campaigns that are relevant to its people. It’s cheaper to prevent HIV than put people on treatment for the rest of their lives.

First we need to understand why people are still getting infected. There is a lot of reasons or research published on this, but not so much on the socio-psychological dynamics. My sister – the Rhodes Scholar (yep I’m a proud sister) is doing her research project on how inter-personal relationships can affect people’s perception, and therefore taking, of risks. I can’t wait to read it.

There are obviously lots of ways to approach this, but without a significant investment of resources, prevention and treatment simply won’t be impactful enough to be successful – I know, I’m preaching to the choir.

We figured it out – we now know who our clients are! It seems like an easy enough task, but when you think about what we do – produce content, funded by different organisations, and then distributed to broadcasters to air, for young people to watch – well any of those could be our clients. Then you break up what we do, how we do it and who it serves and then you figure out who the clients are. It was a really interesting process and the debates led to even more understanding.

From there we’ve done (or will do by tomorrow) three half days of strategic planning. It’s been really interesting as we’ve done a SWOT analysis – both internal, and external, identified our competitors and even our core competence (you can see i’m putting my MBA training into good use). The good thing was getting the input of the whole team and not just leaving it to ‘management’. And it’s a pretty good team – they get along, they’re passionate about the issue, they’re ambitious and they’re constantly striving to be better!

The candid discussions made us all think that as a campaign we’ve lost our edge a little bit and now we’ve got some distance to go to get back to being the absolute best – which is of course what we always strive to be.

Hmmm what will tomorrow bring?

A project that i don’t work on directly, but really is quite a great one is the Staying Alive Foundation. The Foundation’s mandate is to empower young people on the frontline of the epidemic by providing them with grants to use to educate their peers or create environments that challenge stigma and discrimination of people already infected with HIV. We look at it like a domino or pyramid effect – you educate one to educate one more, to educate another and so on and so on.
Here is a video that highlights some of the work the foundation has supported. Enjoy – let me know what you think of these videos too.

this is an interesting one.  coming from the relatively small NGO world in Africa to work for this huge global entity, it really was like a different world all together. you know the HIV/AIDS world has it’s own language, but then so does the private sector and that excited me.  then i started working with my boss on our ‘partner’ relations (i call it that, that’s not the official term for it – public-private partnerships i think it’s called in the NGO world) and i began to see the merging of the language.  it wasn’t always pretty.

the truth of the matter is that the ppps work because each partner recognizes the need of the other, but when one starts taking the other for granted, it doesn’t quite sit well.  i think sometimes the private sector do have their own little arrogance because they don’t have to play by the same rules as the NGO or UN agencies and other philanthropic organisations and sometimes that’s a good thing – because they can push the boundaries in the way the agencies can’t.  but then again the non-profits don’t always appreciate this.

the non-profits have their own arrogance too, because they know the issues, they’re in touch with the ‘real people’, they’re saving people’s lives on the ground.  allegedly. (ok some of them can prove this).  and they think their way – the tried and trusted way – is the right way.  So you know there’s going to be conflict.

i must admit that sometimes i listen to middle class white americans (no offence) based in a US city telling me what a young African woman would or wouldn’t do.  and don’t get me wrong, i don’t think for a minute that i represent all young african women or that i’m a typical african woman, because i know that i did have the privilege of growing up in London and Stockhom and that i have- as my father would say- western ideals.  but i still think that i know a little bit better about young African women – especially the type we reach with MTV.

sigh.  oh well, at the end of the day the most important thing is getting the message across right?  hmmm i’ll give you my take on that one another time.

(by the way if this post doesn’t make sense, i totally blame it on the fact that i started writing it and then went to a digital thing for almost 3 hours and then came back to finish this off!)