UN Soap Opera Fights HIV/AIDS in Africa
June 4, 2002
The UN has commissioned a weekly soap opera, "Heart and Soul," to spread warnings about HIV/AIDS in Africa. Aimed at an audience of hundreds of millions, the drama will be broadcast on both television and radio. It will also carry other UN messages, such as poverty reduction, environmental protection, governance and human rights, though its producers insist it is first and foremost entertainment.Adapted from:
"Heart and Soul" is modeled after the South African soap "Soul City," on the air since 1992. Research found that 95 percent of people exposed to "Soul City" learned something, and knowledge of HIV transmission increased significantly among young people. "I thought we should use the many very good African actors and musicians to give people messages to improve their lives, not bureaucrats in suits," said Tore Brevik, former head of communications at the UN Environment Program and "Heart and Soul's" creator. Matthew Robinson of the BBC, a seasoned drama director with the project said, "This is meant to engage people. If the UN had wanted something totally message-based, I wouldn't have been interested."
The soap starts with a daily run of teasers, to be shown during the World Cup, about Noah Meli, patriarch of one of the soap's families. He is dying of AIDS, but will not admit it. The teasers are shot on the day of the broadcast to make them as topical as possible. The series itself starts in July with Noah's funeral, and to heighten interest the producers will place "obituaries" in mass-circulation newspapers. The six programs will be broadcast on radio in English and Kiswahili in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The TV programs -- broadcast simultaneously -- will be transmitted in 22 countries by TV Africa, a private South African station.
Twenty-four UN agencies support the soap, in partnership with the World Bank, the British Council and the BBC. About one-third of its $1 million budget has been raised.
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