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Image Efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS in Africa are being undermined by the African movie industry, says Nigerian Tukeni Obasi.


The African movie industry especially Nollywood and Ghollywood has become a source of pride to many Africans.

With a relatively small percentage of the Africans having access to satellite television, Nollywood/Ghollywood have become an easy source of entertainment for many Nigerians and other Africans with video clubs in every corner and cheaply-priced film houses replacing the village square in some rural areas.

Some satellite TV stations in Africa even show African movies especially Nollywood and Ghollywood movies. Someone once said that the movie industry was an example of how every industry in Africa should be: produced in Africa, consumed by Africans. I remember meeting people from other countries in Africa who on hearing I was Nigerian would immediately say, "Oh I love your movies; we watch your movies in our country". And a sense of pride would overwhelm me.

But lately, this pride has turned into shame and concern.

Today, "Kiss me if you can", " Heart of men" and similar movies have become household names starring famous Nollywood and Ghollywood sensations like Jackie Appiah, Mercy Johnson, and Majid Michael. Educated and uneducated youth have seen their stars assume numerous sex positions, engage in threesomes and openly embrace promiscuity. This has taken our culture by surprise but has faced little opposition as many believe that promiscuity is now "cool". The director of one of the movies said he was simply responding to the needs of the market.

My question: what market?

Image The African continent has been the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic with 75% of all AIDS deaths in 2005 being in Africa. Interestingly enough, the main driver of infection in Accra is commercial sex. In fact, 80% of HIV infections in young men had been acquired from women who sell sex.

Elsewhere, the figures are less impressive. Swaziland (which now faces an existential threat due to the spread of the virus) has an average life expectancy of 32 years; Angola and Lesotho both have an average life expectancy of 38 years. Lesotho is also believed to be facing extinction. Tanzania has 1.5 million people living with HIV, Ethiopia has 1.4, Kenya has 1.1 and Nigeria has a whopping 3 million. Of course, there is the Ugandan quintessential success story, a story of government's timely intervention to combat the spread of the disease and the provision of primary health care and sex education and awareness programs which led to a drop in promiscuity and unprotected sex and consequently a drop in overall rates.

The African continent has been the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic with 75% of all AIDS deaths in 2005 being in Africa. Interestingly enough, the main driver of infection in Accra is commercial sex.


While this underscores the role governments need to play in society to address this problem, it also highlights the role played by culture, education and societal norms in either the spread or prevention of the spread of the virus. Just a few years ago, Former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and President Mugabe of Zimbabwe suggested that HIV-AIDS was caused by poverty rather than sex.

'The Message of Promiscuity is not one they need to Hear'

Many Africans especially in the rural areas who have no formal education and do not even receive a basic sex education would not have known better. Superstitions and lies such as "sex is the only way to get rid of pimples", "sex is the only way to gain respect" have spread like wildfire and misled people into promiscuity without making them understand the repercussions of their actions. And now, the movie industry has joined the crusade.



HIV/AIDS has brought anything but good news to anyone directly or indirectly affected by it. Many people end up dying from simple complications not long after they get the virus due to lack of basic healthcare. Many children are left orphaned further reducing their chances of acquiring any formal education as they have to fend for themselves. Sometimes, these children end up going into the sex market to make a living. And the cycle continues. Needless to say, the demand for adequate and accessible health care, anti-retroviral drugs, HIV awareness programs has remained largely unmet. This market, which plays no small role in our productivity, our survival and our very redemption, has been ignored.

So, I ask: Nollywood, Ghollywood, Afrowood, please stop leading our youth astray. The message of promiscuity is not one they need to hear. AIDS is real and it kills and promiscuity provides no remedy.

You are turning the industry into one that is produced by Africans and then consumes them. And you have ignored the needs of the real market by promoting a market that will destroy us, one that will take hold of our lives and snuff it out of us.

So, please do me a favour: give me my pride back.

Tukeni Obasi is a nineteen year old Nigerian currently studying at Political Science at McGill University. Passionate about human rights, youth empowerment and sustainable development especially on the African continent, Tukeni believes in the power of the truth. "Once it's out, it cannot be let back in and it goes on to change lives and spark revolutions. And I know that one day the African youth will rise up, take the world by storm and change the face of Africa forever. It's only a matter of time."

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