In a beige-colored office with flourescent lighting, a woman sits in a chair, clutching her child. Inside she was praying for the health of her baby, praying that it didn’t carry her life-changing disease. HIV had taken over her home like the plague it was and the only one she wanted to help escape it was the life she created in her arms. When the doctor steps in, she sits down behind the desk and the praying woman’s breath gets caught. The doctor looks at her, her mouth moving but nothing registering because all she wanted to hear was one word. “Negative.”
That word from the lips of the doctor echoed off the walls like an empty home, but it filled her heart to the point she screamed out of joy and cried tears of relief. This scene in the documentary “Lessons From South Africa” was the one scene that made an impact on me. When one shows so much dedication for a life, trying to guide it in the right direction, that changes the future whether it’s one person at a time or a whole nation. And that’s what the media in South Africa is trying to do.
According to 2009 statistics, there was a estimated total of 33.3 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, a shocking 22.5 million living in Subsaharan Africa. That part of Africa is known as the capital for the HIV/AIDS epidemic. That’s almost a full 68 percent. But the mindblowing numbers aren’t stopping the fight in South Africa. Through television, they are not only trying to inform adults and children through facts and statistics, but showing the actual lives of people suffering from this disease.
Through reality television, they are making the private lives of HIV-infected people open for all to see. Their hardships, their relationships, their everyday lives and how they have modify it because of HIV. This type of show is not only informative, but it makes the individuals on the show more relatable to where the watcher can apply that person’s journey into their own lives and/or talk about it with friends. Just by feeling like “you’re not the only one” can change the outlook of someone’s life. It can give them the push that they really need towards the right direction.
Television isn’t the only way they are using media in their outreach program, but also with radio shows or HIV testing tent setups sponsored by brands and other companies. By using these modern tools, they are marketing themselves towards a generation of young adults. Nowadays, teens and people from their 20s and 30s are brand name and social networking junkies. By using anything that can connect that type of mindset with an organization like HIV Awareness will generate the feedback that they need and deserve.
The world could learn a few things from South Africa when it comes to teaching people about HIV. There are many people in the world who are shunning the epidemic, not talking about it or trying to pretend it’s not even there, but treating like so won’t make it disappear. Nor is it bringing anyone closer to a cure. This disease has the ability to destroy towns and cities, maybe nations. We now have the technology to make people aware, to bring them together and make them fight for one goal. We need to become dedicated to saving lives, not just reducing numbers in statistics. Once we become selfless instead of selfish, only then will we see true progress.