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Regent University Produces AIDS-Prevention Film for Tanzania

October 17, 2002

Steven L. Kiruswa, a Tanzanian doctoral student at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., and Kenny Jackson, a local director, went to Tanzania for a week last month to touch up a film that conjoined an unusual triangle of players -- Regent, the US Department of Defense and the Tanzanian military. Last year, Regent -- a Christian graduate school with an award-winning film department -- received a $110,000 federal grant to produce an AIDS prevention film for Tanzania, where the UN has estimated that 2 million people have HIV/AIDS. If that figure keeps rising, a weakened military could be open to overthrow, said William J. Brown, a communications professor who helped oversee the film, titled "On the Edge."

Though the film comes from Regent, it does not offer an abstinence-only message. Kiruswa, who plays an AIDS instructor, discusses condoms with the soldiers in the film, but warns: "These are not fail-safe. They can break; they can get old." Kiruswa said in an interview: "The message is clear: There are all kinds of ways to protect yourself from getting AIDS. Abstinence is one. Using condoms is another. Being faithful to your partner is a third."

A straight abstinence message "wouldn't have met all the needs of the audience," Brown said. "Some have high-risk lifestyles and won't practice abstinence."

"On the Edge" includes the lecture but focuses on two soldiers, Paulo and Tesha, as they confront their fears about AIDS, with different results. Tesha describes an African folk tale about a chameleon-like ogre who "flashes her long white teeth." The ogre represents AIDS, the "hidden enemy," Brown said.

The film has been shown to roughly 600 soldiers, Kiruswa said, and they suggested adding an epilogue including interviews with HIV-positive soldiers. The title will also be changed to the more direct "AIDS: The Hidden or Concealed Enemy," Kiruswa said. Brown said Regent was also recently invited to do a similar film in Kenya.

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Excerpted from:
Associated Press
10.15.02; Philip Walzer, Virginian-Pilot

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