January 24, 2007
Washington -- In the lead up to National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (February 7), BET Networks today announced a roll out of fresh HIV-themed programming that features two new films and a youth-focused news special, as part of its longstanding public education partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Rap-It-Up Campaign. All three unique and powerful original shows bring attention to the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in the Black community; and tackle a host of HIV/AIDS-related issues faced by BET's young African-American audience, including stigma and homophobia, HIV testing, substance abuse, and the impact of HIV/AIDS on personal relationships and family life.
BET's lineup of special programming poignantly touches on these various issues as well as educates viewers on the impact HIV has had on the minority population. In the U.S., Blacks account for half of new AIDS cases, while representing just 12% of the population. Among Black women aged 25-34, HIV is the number one cause of death, and a leading cause of death among the Black population overall, higher compared to any other racial and ethnic groups.
"The stark disparity of HIV/AIDS among the Black community empowers BET to continually provide cutting-edge programming that educates our viewers and evokes social change," stated Kelli Lawson, Executive Vice President of BET Corporate Marketing. "Our original programming directly speaks to the harsh reality of HIV/AIDS and also provides a voice to those both affected and infected."
"As HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately impact African Americans, stories like 'Odicie' and 'Reflections' help raise awareness and reduce stigma," said Tina Hoff, Vice President and Director, Entertainment Media Partnerships, Kaiser Family Foundation. "The films are a powerful inside look at the epidemic in African-American communities."
Kicking off this special HIV-themed lineup is REFLECTIONS, the winning short film from the first Scenarios USA/Rap-It-Up "What's the REAL DEAL on Growing Up in the Age of AIDS?" National Story and Scriptwriting Contest which debuts on BET on Sunday, February 4 at 12:00 p.m. ET/PT with encore broadcasts on Wednesday, February 7 at 11:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 18 at 12:00 p.m. REFLECTIONS, written by 17-yr old Keyana Ray of Maywood, Illinois, follows three young women and the issues they face in a community where HIV infection and drug abuse run rampant. The women learn to lean on each other as they educate themselves about HIV, realizing how the disease can affect their everyday lives. The film is directed by renowned director Gina Prince-Bythewood; while her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood, who wrote Spike Lee's "Get on the Bus," managed the script revision process.
BEHIND THE SCENES: REFLECTIONS, a half-hour documentary featuring footage from the making of short film, follows on Sunday, February 4 at 12:30 p.m. In conjunction with this Ford Foundation financially supported on-air program, a specially-tailored study guide will be distributed nationally to teachers, educators, and community groups to help expand learning opportunities from the film.
"Reflections is going to impact everyone who sees it," stated Scenarios USA Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director Kristen Joiner. "It's a beautiful and moving story, and premiering on BET means that millions of young people will be able to learn from and be inspired by it."
On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the cable network will premiere the BET News special, SEX, MYTHS AND THE REAL DEAL, a 30-minute show that examines common misconceptions that many young adults hold about HIV/AIDS on Wednesday, February 7 at 8:00 p.m. The Ford Foundation-funded news special features fictional reenactments combined with commentary from key stakeholders and prominent figures including: HIV advocate Marvelyn Brown, doctors and medical experts, young people, and entertainers such as MC Lyte, Bow Wow, and Magic Johnson among others. A study guide will also be distributed for teachers and community groups to help facilitate discussions about HIV/AIDS and related issues.
ODICIE, the winner of the 3rd Annual Rap-It-Up/Black AIDS Short Subject Film Competition (RIU/BASS), wraps up the special programming menu with its network debut on Sunday, February 18 at 12:30 p.m. Written by writing team: Beverly Abbott, Casey Arrillaga and Wyndle Jordan, the short film features legendary actress Sheryl Lee Ralph and details the story of 9-year-old Odicie Johnson, whose uncle died -- changing her life forever. The nature of his death is a dark family secret kept from her young ears; however, an unsatisfied Odicie embarks on a journey to find out what really happened to her beloved Uncle Leon. After discovering her uncle's struggle with AIDS, Odicie decides to mend her broken family.
ODICIE will also be screened at the National Black Women & AIDS Conference in Los Angeles, CA (www.blackaids.org) on Saturday, February 10 at 2:00 pm, and the National African American AIDS Conference in Philadelphia, PA on February 12. The RIU/BASS film competition is an ongoing collaboration between the Black AIDS Institute, BET Networks, and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"AIDS is an unprecedented health catastrophe in Black America. Mobilization is the key to eradicating this deadly disease," stated Phill Wilson, Founder and Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute. "These short films not only showcase up and coming filmmakers, but also are vital in providing our communities with unique and profound programming that realistically illustrates the need to mobilize these communities."
In addition to new on-air programming, BET and Kaiser unveil the launch of new informational and interactive resources about HIV/AIDS on www.rap-it-up.com. Throughout February, BET will also air targeted public service announcements (PSAs) jointly produced with Kaiser to encourage young African Americans to learn more about HIV/AIDS, encourage dialogue among families and partners about the disease, and get regular HIV tests.
Since 1998, the BET and the Kaiser Family Foundation have partnered to operate Rap-It-Up, a premier sexual health information resource for young African Americans. To date, the campaign has aired more then 16,000 PSAs, generated an audience of over 14 million viewers for its HIV-themed specials and documentaries, managed over 1.2 million hotline calls, and organized over 50 community awareness and mobile STD testing events reaching tens of thousands of youth.