||Seeds of Hope Take Root: Meeting the Challenges of HIV/AIDS
On February 23rd, 2003,
a new film on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Ethiopia was premiered
at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, California. The premiere was
well attended by Bay Area Ethiopians as well as members of the
local community. The film entitled ‘Breaking the Silence’,
the first in a series of 10, showcased the voices of HIV+ Ethiopians
who chose to speak out about the illness in order to end the stigma
of living with HIV/AIDS. Ethiopians from diverse segments of the
society revealed their feelings on their day-to-day hardships,
but more importantly, they taught the audience how each one of
us can work to prevent the rise of infections by shattering the
silence surrounding the subject of HIV/AIDS within the Ethiopian
community. “By speaking out,” one individual reminded
us, “we can prevent the needless suffering and isolation
that HIV+ people are made to feel.” Those who are working
diligently to protect the lives of others stressed the need to
conduct peer-to-peer education.
Seeds of Hope Take Root:
Meeting the Challenges of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia is a project
created by Concentric Media located in Menlo Park, California.
After Producer Dorothy Fadiman and her team visited Ethiopia she
envisioned making one documentary film on how Ethiopians were
affected by the pandemic. Today the project has been transformed
into a ten-part series in order to do justice in portraying the
extensive community work, education efforts, and activism the
team witnessed while filming in Ethiopia. Topics raised in the
upcoming nine series include: the impact of HIV/AIDS on women;
community support; educating through entertainment; providing
AIDS education at the local level; alternatives to unprotected
sexual intimacy; high risk groups as peer educators; the role
of religious leaders in AIDS education; using media to increase
awareness; and voluntary testing and counseling. Upon completion
of the films they will be broadcasted both in the U.S. and on
Ethiopian public television as well as made available as resources
to educational institutions.
A large part of Concentric
Media’s goal includes giving the opportunity to Ethiopians
residing in the United States to volunteer in the filmmaking process.
Tasks range from translating to logging of films and editing.
As a volunteer working with the Concentric Media team, I have
discovered some important lessons. Listening to the voices of
HIV+ people and those in high risk groups articulating the need
to end the shame associated with having HIV/AIDS, I have learned
how each individual is transforming and saving lives. I have seen
how their courage to stand up and speak out openly is slowly and
effectively chipping away at the social stigma associated with
the illness. Their effort is helping many others to find their
voices and is allowing them to participate in the healing process.
In the end it is their voices that will teach the community and
thereby start reversing the high trend for the incidence of HIV/AIDS
in nations like Ethiopia. HIV+ people have taken more than a first
step in creating awareness about the disease. It is our turn to
listen and get involved.
Breaking the Silence
Amy L. Hill