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The good news is that new HIV infections have fallen by 20% over the past 10 years. 56 countries, including almost all countries in sub-Saharan Africa, have stablised or slowed down rate of new infections.

The bad news is, well, there were 2.6 million people newly infected with HIV in 2009, including 370,000 babies. And still over 7,000 people are newly infected with HIV every day, and that boils down to two new infections for every person that goes on treatment. It’s kind of scary that considering the great reduction, the numbers remain so high. There is still so much to be done, I guess that’s why UNAIDS is calling for a Prevention Revolution.

Prevention works. After the big insistence on everything having to be evidence based before it could be scaled up, there’s enough research out there that shows that prevention works – the 20% decrease for one. But more needs to be done on prevention, more money, more initiatives. The issue is the same, but the audience is different, they are more savvy, more wary, more complacent. The vehicles for spreading the message are different too. New technology has made the mode of communication more advanced, more interactive, and basically given us more opportunities to engage and innovate.

This is key for changing the course of the epidemic – to getting young people to actually pay attention and do something. You have to take risks, almost get banned. Something that unfortunately those holding the purse strings aren’t so sure about doing. I get it, risk and change is scary. Personally, change makes me really nervous, I’m one of those people, that is terrified of embracing change, I don’t like the unknown.

However, this isn’t an issue we can afford to stand still about and play it safe. Change is about evolving, it’s about constantly creating and diversfying and innovating and ultimately being successful, it’s the revolutionary approach that UNAIDS is advocating for…

We did that this year, it also helped that we had most of our own money to do the programme we truely believed in.

I spend a lot of time watching MTV – it could be slightly unhealthy, but hey, you need to know your product right? So last year when 16 and Pregnant premiered in the UK I was hooked. I watched the show each week and the impact it had on me – I decided pregnancy wasn’t for me – made me think how the format informs but also provokes. Observatory documentaries are the new reality shows. There is something grossly appealing about watching other people’s lives, people who aren’t famous, but still seem to be struggling with something. I’m guessing it’s the perverse nature in us that makes us think, ‘wow maybe my life isn’t that bad’, while still making for great, informative, TV.

So I pitched the idea, why not make a 16 and Pregnant style show, but using HIV/AIDS as the focal point? It took some pushing to get buy in but after working with my colleague on the idea, it was greenlit. I didn’t end up working on the show, but I’m glad that we did it. It was a shift from what the Staying Alive campaign has previously done – none of which was bad, but was current for that particular time – we embraced that change and we’re on to a winner. Me, Myself and HIV is a one hour self-narrated programme that follows two 20-something year olds who are HIV+, one in Zambia and one in Minneapolis, USA. It looks at their lives as they go about doing ordinary day to day things, like dating, trying to launch a career, get educated, while balancing living with HIV.

The website follows up with Slim and Angelikah after we finished filming with them. But also shares other stories from people infected with and affected by HIV, as well as providing information for people to get tested, and join our quest to get at least 10,000 people to pledge to get tested.

On the social media side we’re using Twitter to conduct twitterviews with celebs to talk about testing and spread the message on twitter using the hashtag #MTVgettested. We’re using formspring to enable our users to ask Slim, Angelikah and our resident doctor (provided through our partnership with the Hollywood Health and Society) questions. This is a comprehensive campaign that fully integrates analogue and digital. Though our plans for Shuga 2 are even more comprehensive!

The revolution starts here!

Please watch the show, December 1st, and let me know what you think about it. Have we got it right? I don’t know, you let me know. I will leave you with this thought though, enough is enough, in the words of Michel Sidebe, 7000 new infections a day is still unacceptable, we need to put our money where our mouth is and take some risks.

I have to admit, I don’t really watch animated programmes, maybe a few on adult swim, but otherwise, cartoons are for kids, right?

So the other day when my sister asked me to get her a copy of The Princess and the Frog so that she could host a screening for ‘the kids’, I thought, maybe I should watch the movie and see why she wants to show the kids. I only knew two things about the movie; 1) it’s was Disney’s first film with a black princess and 2; the controversy of the frog/prince being some ambiguous race.

With my very short attention span, I did not think I was going to be able to sit through the whole thing on Sunday afternoon. But I did. And I actually enjoyed it, didn’t even forward most of the songs.

It was great because I stupidly assumed that it would literally be a remake of the classical children’s story about kissing the frog who’s actually a prince and you become a princess. So I was surprised to see the twist to it.

However, the only thing that really made the ‘princess’ black – her skin colour and the fact that she thought kissing a frog was disgusting. I shouldn’t complain about the lack of ‘stereotypical’ black nuances that we enjoy joking about, but hate other races talking about, because the reality is all black people are different. As long as I can show my future daughter a cartoon character, a Princess, that looks like her, I should be happy.

And the message in the show is so good too – the things that matter, that makes are human is love. Or is that we need to find someone to love to be whole? Hmmm, there’s a thought.

Anyway, it struck me how as children, we get all these messages through programming that teaches us about love, humanity, respect, being ourselves etc. As we grow up those messages change to be about being all about self, money, sexual gratification and all sorts of messages that you have to wade through to find something that actually matters.

Yes it is that as adults – or even teenagers – we’re supposed to have a sense of decision making skills, we don’t need to be told, we have the ability to choose right from wrong and make the best decisions for ourselves. But I just don’t think that’s the reality. I think there are so many mixed messages that young people, who very rarely have the acumen for life-skills, just get confused. They’re childhood upbringing (for most of them) tells them one thing, and the media they now consume, tell them another. So they are no longer aligned with their soul.

You’d say that my line of work makes me partial to programme that gives positive messages, but it’s not that, it’s the choice that I made. I have two loves: making TV programming and fighting injustice. And I believe in the power of TV. The power it has to entertain, and the power it has to educate. And children’s programming does that brilliantly.

I hope as we develop our campaigns we get stronger and stronger at this. I know it’s working already, just look at Shuga. In case you missed it, here’s the piece CNN’s African Voices did on Shuga:

http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/10/25/av.shuga.kenya.mtv.bk.a.cnn

The last few months have been rather intense, both personally and professionally. Change is always a difficult thing to go through, but sometimes you just have to embrace it and hold on.

With less than a month to go before World AIDS Day, we’re full steam ahead to deliver one of our most integrated campaigns yet – if all goes according to plan. It’s also a new programming format for us, mixing reality style with documentary type story lines. I wish I could say it’s an obs-doc, but it’s not quite, not yet…

Coupled with this one hour special is a dedicated website, which we hope will be a one-stop destination for young people needing to find out all they need about testing and/or living with HIV.

I have to admit this format and indeed this website has been a goal of mine for awhile. When I first lost my brother in 2006, a change started in me, regarding the type of messages I thought we should be communicating to the audience, yes putting across the use the condom message was still important but it wasn’t enough (and I’m simplifying the messages we put across, it was more than just use a condom).

In 2009 when I lost my other brother, I knew it was time to change things up.

I still believe it’s important to put across the more positive, inclusive message of you can live a healthy, productive life with HIV, but I also think we can’t shy away from some of the more negative aspects of living with HIV. Like with any terminal illness there are good and bad days. And with the bad times, it affects everyone who loves you. Never before did the saying ‘if you’re not infected, you’re affected’ resonate with me than when I lost my brother. And even now, as I watch other relatives battling with the virus.

And so the process to tell the real stories of young people living with HIV began earlier this year. Do I think we’ve got it right? Well, I’ll let you guys be the judge of that, come December 1st.

I think there are so many stories to be told that what we’ve started is just the tip of the iceberg and it shouldn’t end here. Ultimately Me, Myself and HIV, should resonate with young people already living with the virus, but also give an opportunity for someone to walk in the shoes of one of these kids (they’re early 20s, hardly kids I suppose), for just one day. It’s not about pity, it’s not about differences, it’s much more about similarities, with that extra layer of HIV to complicate some things.

Look out for it – coming to a screen near you – on December 1st.

I will write about the MDGs soon but I’m super busy with final reports for our donors and partners, in the meantime, I wanted to share with you a CNN interview with a dear friend Sandra Buffington from the Hollywood, Health and Society

Let me know your thoughts on using health related messages in entertainment programming.