Speeches from the Summit

Address by the Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the African Broadcast Media Leaders Summit on HIV/AIDS
19h00, Tuesday, October 4, Mandela House, Nelson Mandela Foundation, 107 Central Street, Houghton

Dr. DE Altmans CEO of the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation
Mr J Samuels the CEO of Mandela Foundation
Members of the Africa Broadcast Media
All international Participants.
Distinguished guests

It is my pleasure to officially welcome you to South Africa. The fact that the public broadcasters from more than 20 African countries are represented by their top executives here is testimony to your commitment to tackling the intractable scourge of HIV/AIDS.

I also want to welcome our friends from further a field, and in particular the Kaiser Family Foundation, who together with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the SABC and the Southern African Broadcasting Corporation are responsible for organizing this Summit.

I would like to express our appreciation to all of you for taking this initiative and to say that it is our hope and expectation that this is more than just another Summit of noble resolutions, but rather a nut-and-bolts working session designed to have lasting benefit to our collective struggle against HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Altman referred to the fact that this Summit is part of the Global Media AIDS Initiative launched by the UN Secretary General in January last year. We want to applaud the Secretary General’s initiative to increase the contribution of the world’s media corporations to the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
We are proud to stand here in support of the Secretary General’s initiative and I have no doubt that the measure of the commitment that you make over the next two days will set a new global benchmark.

The reality is though that African broadcasters already have an extraordinary record in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Indeed virtually all African public broadcasters have prioritized HIV/AIDS in their public broadcast mandates.

We need no reminding of the horrors of HIV/AIDS. Nor do we need reminding that broadcast media is a central part of any national response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

However, turning the tide of HIV infection sweeping our continent requires not only renewed dedication, and not only token commitments to increased airtime and programming, but some hard thinking about what kind of HIV/AIDS messaging really works and how to tragert our communication to have greatest impact on the future course of the epidemic.

Random approaches will produce uncertain effects. The main challenge is to find ways to more effectively engage audiences in ways in which they will internalize their personal risk of HIV/AIDS. For example, 94% of young South Africans under 25 years know about how to avoid getting HIV/AIDS. But 62% of those under 25 already infected with HIV continued to believe that they were not at high risk for HIV infection.

Compared with 73% of HIV negative youth who believe they are not at risk.

Everybody has an opinion on what kind of HIV/AIDS communication they think is most likely to turn things around. The fact is there is no magic formula, what works in some societies will not work in all societies, and what works for young people will not work for adults and so on.

I think that as long as we fixate on narrowly prescribed formulas for sexual behaviour we will continue to miss the mark.

We need to be smarter about tailoring HIV/AIDS programming to different demographics and we need to be smarter about integrating HIV/AIDS messaging seamlessly into programming that audiences find enjoyable and memorable.

I understand that it is probably impolite in this audience to refer to the work of our own national broadcaster. But the fact is the SABC is a world leader in innovative HIV/AIDS programming. Kami the HIV positive puppet from Tekhlani Sesame, the loveLife campaign, Soul City among others are regarded internationally as setting new standards in HIV/AIDS edutainment.

We have been told by researchers that one of the most remarkable aspects of the Ugandan success in reducing its infection rates was the degree of open every day conversation about HIV/AIDS and its causes. This high degree of awareness and communication was stimulated by a state-driven campaign led by President Museveni.

Taking from that experience our own loveLife campaign has very effectively engaged some of our most prominent national leaders including former president Mandela to promote a campaign called ‘love them enough to talk about sex.’

Of all that loveLife has done this campaign I believe had the greatest impact in stimulating a real national conversation about HIV/AIDS, sex, relationships and gender. Hearing those words (“love them enough to talk about sex”)come out of the mouths of revered national leaders was a wake up call to those who thought loveLife was just for their children, or HIV/AIDS only affects poor people. Suddenly our intellectual classes were also challenged.

There is clear evidence that more open communication contributes to greater awareness and reduced stigma.

And perhaps most compelling of all is the significant body of international research demonstrating that open communication between parents and children generally, and in particular in regard to sexual behaviour, contributes to substantially lower risk behaviour including substance abuse and crime.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I am probably not telling you anything you have not heard before. But even if you have heard it all before it is worth refocusing on some of the basic fundamentals such as the fact that Women are far more vulnerable and bear the brunt of the epidemic in a variety of ways.

But this is due to the fact that women live in societies where power relations are not in their favour.

We need affirmative focus on women as regard HIV/AIDS communication, if that message does not grapple with the gender and sexual dynamics, and frankly deal with the basic drivers of HIV infection such as sexual coercion, sexual and domestic violence then we will continue to miss the mark and we need to work harder to communicate with children as infected and affected who need care and protection.

Ladies and Gentlemen: we have high expectations of you. Your are the masters of the airwaves. That gives you extraordinary potential to influence society. We hope you will use all your ingenuity in the cause of HIV/AIDS and in the cause of ensuring improved life prospects and well being for all our peoples.
I thank you.