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Cablegate: World Aids Day Activities in Nigeria

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

241059Z Dec 03

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002208

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/PD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT KPAO OIIP NI
SUBJECT: World AIDS Day Activities in Nigeria


1. Summary. The U.S. mission held events in Lagos and
Abuja in commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 1,
as well as throughout the month. PAS Abuja on December
1 screened the AIDS film documentary, "A Closer Walk,"
to a variety of government officials, NGO activists,
and journalists, and later showed the film to invited
guests of the Vice President's wife, Titi Abubakar, on
Friday, December 5 at the Presidential Villa. Post is
also in contact with the film's director, Robert
Bilheimer, regarding licensing for national television
broadcasting, based on a request from the Nigerian
Television Authority. Post released the Washington-
produced op-ed under Ambassador Meece's signature; it
appeared on the December 5 editorial page of "The
Guardian," one of Nigeria's most popular and
professionally managed dailies. For its World AIDS Day
event, PAS Lagos collaborated with local actors and
USAID-funded Population Services Survival International
to produce a play on December 6 at the shrine of former
Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, who died of AIDS. End
Summary.

World AIDS Day
--------------

2. On December 1, the U.S. mission in Nigeria
commemorated World AIDS Day in both Abuja and Lagos.
In Abuja, the Public Affairs Section showed the AIDS
documentary film, "A Closer Walk," to an audience of
approximately 60 people, comprising government
officials, NGO workers, people living with HIV/AIDS,
and the media. U.S. Charg d'Affaires Roger Meece gave
remarks, USAID mission director Dawn Liberi (who was
included in two film clips of the documentary when she
was USAID mission director in Kampala, Uganda) updated
the audience on recent discussions in Washington
regarding the USG's USD 2.4 billion contribution to the
Global Fund, and John Ibekwe, the deputy coordinator of
the National Network of People living with HIV/AIDS
also spoke to those assembled. As host, the CPAO acted
as moderator for the program.

3. The film, which is a very moving documentary
detailing the scale of human suffering created by the
HIV/AIDS virus, is also a testimony to the
possibilities of coping with the disease and hope for
the future. Most members of the audience were affected
by the film's powerful message and the stories of those
interviewed. Nigerian broadcast stations, including
the Nigerian Television Authority's (NTA) Network News
reported the Embassy's World AIDS Day program and the
screening of the video, "A Closer Walk." NTA used
Ambassador Meece's remarks on the U.S. Congress
authorization of USD 2.4 billion to AIDS-affected
nations as both a lead story with an accompanying sound
bite. The Vice President's wife invited the Embassy to
show the film at the Presidential Villa on December 5
at a dinner in honor of Jermain Jackson formerly of the
U.S. musical group, the Jackson Five. Jackson was in
Abuja to help prepare for Laila Ali's January 10 boxing
match and a benefit concert for HIV/AIDS featuring
American artists Ashante and DMX, among others.

4. Embassy Abuja is in touch with the film director,
Robert Bilheimer, regarding licensing possibilities in
Nigeria. Bilheimer has told us that he was aware that
other U.S. missions both in Africa and elsewhere in the
world showed the film on December 1, and has been
pleased with U.S. government support. He is working
with a South African film distribution company on
developing an approach to licensing rights in Africa.

5. Also on World AIDS Day, PAS staff announced an
awards competition on HIV/AIDS at the Fulbright Alumni
Association Annual Conference at the National Institute
for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Plateau State.
A film viewing, "Scenarios From the Sahel," a
collection of short films about HIV/AIDS, preceded the
awards competition announcement. The awards
competition invites university faculty and students to
form committees to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS on
campus and in the immediate community. The competition
was kicked off on December 1, 2003 and the deadline for
the submission of reports is September 15, 2004. Three
awards will be made ranging from $3,000 to $1,000.

6. On Saturday, December 6, the Lagos Public Affairs
Section, in coordination with well-known Nigerian actor
Bassey Okon and Population Services International,
hosted the matinee and evening production of a play at
the New Africa Shrine in Ikeja, Lagos. The play "A
Word Is Enough," was written and directed by Okon and
his cast, and was performed to over 400 secondary
students and faculty at noon, with a repeat performance
in the evening for an adult audience of roughly 500.

7. The production, which consisted of three separate
short drama sketches, dealt with themes of HIV/AIDS
education and also touched upon some of the many social
questions inherent in the AIDS fight in Africa. As
part of both programs, snacks, t-shirts, caps and
condoms were distributed to attendees, the cost of
which was underwritten by a grant from Population
Services International.

8. The location, The New Africa Shrine, was chosen due
to its significance as the performance center and
spiritual home of legendary Nigerian musician Fela
Kuti, who died of complications related to AIDS in
1997. In a tribute to their father, and in an effort
to show support for the program, Fela's two children,
Femi and Yeni Kuti attended the evening program. Media
coverage included a same-day article that appeared in
the This Day newspaper, a leading daily.
Other HIV/AIDS-Related Events in December
-----------------------------------------

-- As a lead-in to World AIDS Day, the Lagos
Information Section conducted a targeted briefing prior
to the observance. The session, in collaboration with
a Nigerian NGO dedicated to educating journalists on
HIV/AIDS, addressed the theme of stigmatization that
has run through all of the Lagos PAS events in
December. Abuja's Information Resource Center hosted a
roundtable and workshop on HIV/AIDS for information
specialists.

-- The Mission began December with the release of a
special HIV/AIDS issue of the post's monthly magazine.
The edition carried stories on stigmatization, USG
programs to improve HIV education and media strategies
for reducing HIV stigma.

-- On December 4, the Lagos Information Resource
Center held a successful roundtable on the topic of "De-
stigmatization of AIDS/HIV in Nigeria." Almost 50
people attended, representing various aspects of the
interested community around AIDS in Lagos, including
NGOs, journalists, health care workers, and
researchers. Panelists in the roundtable included
representatives from an NGO working with young people,
a journalists' group focused on AIDS issues, Christian
and Muslim groups working on AIDS in their communities
and an organization for people living with HIV/AIDS.
The last speaker was especially powerful and effective,
tying together the themes of HIV prevention among youth
with a frank and open discussion of sex and sexuality.

-- Post released the Washington-produced op-ed under
Ambassador Meece's signature; it appeared on the
December 5 editorial page of "The Guardian," one of
Nigeria's most popular and professionally managed
dailies. Ambassador Meece slightly modified the
Washington boilierplate text to include Nigeria-
specific information.

-- The Lagos Information Section participated in a
December 5 AFNET dialogue that provided specific de-
stigmatization suggestions from a U.S. doctor and the
head of a Washington D.C. HIV/AIDS outreach
organization. Specifically, Nigerian participants
learned about successful Washington-area community
strategies for branching out to low-income families
through apartment block representatives. Additionally,
the doctor addressed Nigerians' concerns about
identifying HIV infection in poor environments and the
risks of announcing one's status. Most significantly,
several community and religious leaders left the
dialogue with clear ideas about how they could reach
out to their constituents.

-- Embassy Abuja participated in a December 16 AFNET
on People Living With HIV/AIDS, with an audience
comprised of healthcare professionals, government
officials from the Executive and Legislative branches,
NGO workers and the media. Participation and audience
receptivity was very strong; many questions were
referred to the Mission's Center for Disease Control
(CDC) for answers after the program due to the
technical nature of the subject.


ROBERTS

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