Living with HIV/AIDS Documentary on CNN

This year’s World’s AIDS day has come and gone but reverberations from the CNN documentary ‘Living with HIV/AIDS’, shown to mark the week would linger for a long time. In the documentary, produced by award winning African journalist Sorious Samura, a Zambian family ravaged by HIV/AIDS is followed to determine the attitudes and mindset that encourage the spread of the infection, and which guide the disposition of sufferers and their immediate community.
Courtesy of CNN

According to Samura, the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa is directly connected to the high rate of promiscuity and sexual reckless obtainable in the continent. In his own words, ‘the complex African culture is exacerbating the spread of the disease and its social toll’. The documentary portrayed African men as beings with uncontrollable and insatiable sexual appetite who are most unwillingly to use any form of protection to shield themselves from the dreaded virus. The women were also and not surprising cast as the victims who should be pitied, as the men go about raping and sleeping with them in their multiples and spreading the virus. The children are the unfortunate bearers of their parents cross and the protégé of irresponsible adults who by no fault of theirs are suffering for the stupidity of the race.

If the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, as claimed by Samura, is a direct correlation of the continent’s promiscuity or sexual recklessness, then America and Europe would have been wiped out from the face of the earth as it stands today. Pornography and sex are the major things that sell in the Western world. The age of consent for sexual relations in Spain is 13, 15 in Denmark , France and several other European countries. In the UK, it is 16 and there is a strong outcry by civil society and certain agencies to lower the bar to 14 years, as anything otherwise is pretentious and does not portray the realities of society. Prostitution has reached unimaginable heights in Europe and some American states. Syndicate groups that thrive on this social ill have been established to fund candidates to political position, who are in turn obligated to protect the business interests of their sponsors. Pedophilia and other weird sexual practices and all manner of perversion daily make the news in the Western media. Pray, where did Samos Samora gather his statistics about the sexual inclination of Africans?

Instead of misusing such a hallowed platform as a slot on satellite television to reinforce the rhetoric of the West, the producer would have shown the true cause of the spread of the illness in Africa, which is poverty and underdevelopment. More specifically, through the sharing of health instruments such as syringes, razor blades and unscreened blood transfusion, the abundance of health quacks that circumcise, perform minor surgery and administer basic medical services in the most unhealthy way, and the high cost of condoms in comparison to per capita income. In the West, the virus is most prevalent among the very poor population.

It is disturbing that a personality like Samura who from his demeanor is well read and most likely grew up in Africa, when possessing of the privilege to expound the truth, chose to re-echo the rhetoric of the West on the issue of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Samura makes no mention of all the efforts made by African leaders, NGOs of African origin and enlightened HIV positive Africans in fighting the illness. Instead, a couple of Euro-American doctors were interviewed and some aid agencies operating from Europe and America were praised for their efforts in the fight against the dreaded virus. Everybody that watched that documentary, unless he has been to Africa and interacted deeply with Africans would leave with the impressions that Africans are the most ignorant and promiscuous race the earth has ever produced and are deserving of the onslaught of disease they are presently experiencing. The person would also believe that 95% of the populace are HIV positive, living below the poverty line, indeed cut off from modern civilization and are absolutely dependent upon Europe and America to save them from themselves.

Just like in an adult with self-esteem issues, people see you the way you see yourself. If we see ourselves as sick and incapable as Mr. Samura would want the world to believe, then the world sees us as such. We may be ailing in certain sectors, but not incapable of finding a solution to our ill health. Africans must realize that there’s an extent to which an appeal to pity will produce the expected emotions before it turns to disdain and then disenchantment. In the true African spirit, we must show the world how far we have gone in addressing our challenges and where we need encouragement, only then will the world listen to us with respect.

I do not know what Mr.Samura has achieved via the documentary except updating his Resume as an internationally acclaimed producer, and further ridiculing every person of African descent world over. If it was pity he wanted, then he has lost touch with reality because the world has gone beyond the stage of pity and self responsibility for the African problem on to disdain and disillusionment. Africans need to look out for ways of encouraging themselves and building up their community, rather than joining hands with certain segments in Europe and America to make nothing out of the efforts of our people. Or aligning with biased minds to draw unfair conclusions and proffer prejudiced solutions about our challenges.

As a people, Africans cannot keep blaming the West for the centuries of siphoning their human and natural resources to build their continents. The urgent need is to start with the little left for the continent, and show just like the African proverb says; that it is only the person who is not hungry that says the coconut has a hard shell. Nothing is impossible as long as there’s a need to be met. even in the midst of corruption, diseases, underdevelopment and bad leadership, lies strength, faith and a determination to conquer evil with good – going with the strong belief that just as Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mombazo said, ‘the task ahead of us is not greater than the power behind us’.

First Published by NewsAfrica London, December 2006

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