Cablegate: Hiv/Aids Messages Reach Millions Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

201352Z Mar 03





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: USAID/Zimbabwe is making creative
use of television to reach millions of youth
with HIV/AIDS messages. Adolescence is a period
of dynamic change and although many youth are
healthy, they face the risks of unwanted
pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other sexually
transmitted diseases. In Zimbabwe, as elsewhere
in Africa, more than 50% of all new HIV
infections occur in young people under the age
of 25. As part of USAID/Zimbabwe's overall
effort to address this problem, we recently
launched a TV soap opera and a TV talk show that
are entertaining young viewers while
simultaneously educating them about HIV/AIDS and
delivering strong behavior change messages. The
soap opera, named Studio 263, has quickly become
the number one TV show in the country. The two
shows offer a broad range of HIV/AIDS prevention
messages with the long format allowing for more
in-depth treatment of such nuanced subjects as
abstinence. End Summary.

2. In September 2002, USAID/Zimbabwe launched a
TV soap opera, named Studio 263 after Zimbabwe's
international dialing code, that airs in half-
hour episodes three times a week. The show
deals with day-to-day issues confronting young
Zimbabweans. It provides choices, solutions and
ideas that help young people think about the
future they want for themselves.

3. Studio 263 is the story of Vimbayi, a
beautiful young woman from a lower-middle-class,
high-density suburb of Harare. After winning
the Miss Harare beauty pageant, Vimbayi decides
to go for the prestigious Miss Zimbabwe pageant.
Financially constrained, she meets a rich young
man who offers to help her. She becomes pregnant
just before the contest and loses the
opportunity to realize her dream. With the man
refusing to accept the child, she decides to
take control of her life, completes her
education and finds a good job. Trying to manage
her own family as well as help her parents,
Vimbayi goes on to become a successful, married
career woman. Her relentless struggle to
overcome various obstacles at home and work,
while dealing with relationships with
boyfriends, family members and friends, and her
eventual emergence as a confident, woman of
substance, become the main focus of the story.

4. A variety of evolving situations and
circumstances are threaded through different
characters and relationships surrounding
Vimbayi, her life, her ambition, dreams and
career. These stories are designed to help
Zimbabwean youth understand the risks associated
with early sexual activity, especially HIV/AIDS
and unwanted pregnancy. The program educates
youth on the choices available to them in
overcoming such risks. It provides social
support for the choice of delayed sexual
activity and living a healthy life. By offering
role models that young people can emulate, the
serial drama aims at improving the physical,
mental and social well-being of Zimbabwean

5. When it was launched in September 2002, 1.6
million viewers tuned into the first episode of
Studio 263, making it the second most widely
viewed program on television, after the 8 p.m.
news. Since the beginning of the year, the
number of viewers has grown rapidly to 2 million
per episode, making Studio 263 the most popular
show ever on Zimbabwean TV. While young adults
remain the core audience, the program also
attracts older family members with its social
relevance and family appeal. "Studio 263 has
become a cult," says a professor from the
University of Zimbabwe. A twenty-year old woman
in Chegutu reveals, "Vimbayi, Beverley, Jabu,
James, and Tendai - they are all household names
today. We look at ourselves through them. If
anything happens to Vimbayi, I feel as if it's
happening to me. It's so real. I love it."

6. While Studio 263 connects with the youth
through its emotional drama and identifiable
characters, This is Life is an edu-taining talk-
show of one hour duration, aimed at generating
debate and discussion in Zimbabwean society by
providing more detailed information on HIV/AIDS-
related issues in an interactive, informed
manner. Topics are chosen for their relevance to
youth. They are discussed at length under the
guidance of experts with both a studio audience
and people on the street. The show is co-hosted
by two well-known Zimbabwean presenters.

7. Launched in June 2002, This is Life commands
a viewership of more than 1.5 million young
people per episode. Popular for its frank, bold
approach and treatment, This is Life deals with
some of the most difficult issues surrounding
HIV/AIDS prevention: abstinence -- and
strategies for achieving it; fidelity; the risks
of serial monogamy - a common characteristic
among youth; the trusted-partner myth; condom
efficacy; alcohol, sex and HIV; money, sex and
HIV; living positively with HIV -- providing
support encouragement and information; stigma
and discrimination; teenage pregnancy; rape;
children affected by AIDS; and the scapecoat of
"African culture" as an excuse for sexual

8. Both Studio 263 and This is Life are scripted,
directed and produced by Zimbabweans with oversight
from USAID's contractor, Population Services
International (PSI), for message content and
quality. Studio 263 and This is Life, together with
a CDC/Zimbabwe-sponsored radio serial drama (Mopani
Junction), have set a new direction for HIV
prevention communications in Zimbabwe.


© Scoop Media

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