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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

AIDS Documentary: "The Lazarus Effect"

Today I watched The Lazarus Effect, a documentary sponsored by (RED), the cause famously championed by Bono to help eliminate AIDS in Africa.  Here is the trailer:

I was particularly eager to see this documentary as it was shot in Zambia.  However I was to be disappointed.  This 30 minute documentary was really a 30 minute plea to get people to donate.  It focused on the pain of people losing a loved one to AIDS and how free ARVs have saved their lives.  I was moved by the before and after shots of the people who were able to benefit from the free ARV program that provides 3 million Africans with treatment. In Zambia 250,000 people get the free drugs, amounting to about 1/10th of the infected population being serviced.  Stats like these and others would flash on the screen every 5 minutes or so to put what things into perspective and to lead up to how ultimately with just 40 cents a day we can make a difference. They shot the documentary in such a way that only one of the buildings in city centre was visible so it looked like there are no buildings in the capital, not that you would know they were shooting in Lusaka from the way they shot it.  But of course you can't show anything that a Westerner could relate to, because they would more than empathise and then would not want to give because they would think that everything is alright naturally! I really wished they had asked the subjects how they had contracted the disease and how they would advise others not to walk the path they walked and what they feel needs to be done to reverse the pandemic.

Can we please stop plugging holes after the fact and get down and dirty and deal with the heart of the problem.  Serious social issues in Africa are perpetuating the spread of HIV and AIDS and these then exacerbate the financial ones.  If we deal with the causes then we won't have to think about prolonging people's lives with drugs and worrying about people suffering when they do not have access to them.

Dr. Mannasseh Phiri, who is well known in the community and has radio shows that actively promote prevention was underutilised in this documentary.  His most recent post on condoms and marriage tackles one of the social issues that need to be dealt with to halt the pandemic.  I also liked his post on abstinence which shows how even in the western world, the idea of promoting only abstinence is not sufficient to preventing teenagers from engaging in sexual practices, let alone safe ones.  Why this "abstinence only" proviso for aid is being pushed on African is beyond me.  Yesterday the BBC published an article about how studies in Africa have shown that pregnancy increases the transmission of HIV/AIDS and finished with the interesting fact that 1 in 4 people in the UK who has the disease doesn't even know they have it.  Condoms no matter where you are are pivotal to safe sex practices.

An STD is an STD, it is best not to get one, and AIDS is everywhere, we all need to be careful.

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