Seeds of Hope Take Root: Meeting the Challenges of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia

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

Contact Information

Amy L. Hill