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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Upcoming FPC Briefings

BRIEFINGS ARE LIVE STREAMED AT: http://conx.state.gov/dc-fpc

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WHAT: Washington Foreign Press Center World AIDS Day 2014 Program

TOPIC: Special Screening of Voice of America (VOA) Documentary “AIDS: Living in the Shadows” and Panel Discussion

WHEN: Monday, December 1, 2014, at 1:00 pm

WHERE: National Press Building, 529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800

RSVP: Interested media should respond to FPCOwner@state.gov. Please Note: This event is for foreign media only.

BACKGROUND: The Washington Foreign Press Center (FPC) invites you to a special World AIDS Day 2014 program. The event will kick off with a screening of the award-winning VOA documentary, “AIDS: Living in the Shadows,” which provides a moving look at one of the most daunting effects of AIDS – the stigma that turns victims into outcasts among their communities and even families. The screening will be followed by an on-the-record panel discussion moderated by Gustavo Win, VOA’s Development Officer. Other panelists include:

  • Dr. Massimo N. Ghidinelli, Chief of PAHO/WHO’s HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and Sexually Transmitted Infections;
  • Dr. Manya Magnus, Co-Director of George Washington University’s MPH Epidemiology Program;
  • Dr. Natella Rakhmanina, Allergist-immunologist at The Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC;
  • Dr. Lisa Butler, Lecturer at Harvard Medical School

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND: The 30-minute film, narrated by longtime AIDS activist Sir Elton John, shares stories from Haiti, Cambodia, Canada, Nigeria, Uganda, and the United States. Please click here for a brief synopses of each.

Foreign Media Only, Please.

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“AIDS: Living in the Shadows” Story Synopses

HAITI ORPHANAGE: Vernise, a 20-year old Haitian orphan was sent to live with her aunt at a very young age when her parents died of AIDS. As a child, she was always sick, but was never taken to the doctor to find out what was really wrong. Once she became gravely ill, Vernise was taken to a hospital where it was revealed she was HIV positive. Following this news, life became a living hell for Vernise. She was not allowed to play with her cousins, was often beaten, and relegated to a small corner of the house where she had to sleep and eat. Vernise is one of the lucky ones – today she is now living in an orphanage where she is getting an education and access to a regiment of anti-virals. The film profiles this young girl, capturing her new life filled with hope, and confronts the actions of her aunt, who denies wrong doing. Seeing the two of them reunited paints a picture of the pain and suffering associated with the stigma of AIDS.

NIGERIA/UGANDA: President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and President Museveni of Uganda are two African leaders embracing legislation that legally targets members of the LGBTQ community. In Abuja, Nigeria, Ifeanyi Orazuilke is a well-known activist challenging the legislation that recommends penalties of up to ten years imprisonment for same sex couples who publically show affection. For those with AIDS, the staggering fear of seeking treatment has forced the community underground. Through the profile of Ifeanyi, we look at the human rights violations in Africa and laws that reflect the religious and cultural preferences of the Nigerian people. Roger Ross Williams, the filmmaker who produced the segment, “God Loves Uganda,” addresses how the Christian right movement in these countries, some funded by conservatives in the United States, and making the stigma of AIDS a life threatening situation in Africa.

AIDS BABY: Maurice, a 20-year old HIV positive man, is now willing to come forward with the truth. His entire life he has never shared his secret with anyone except his grandmother and now-deceased mother. His life struggles and challenges of living with HIV will be revealed in interviews with him and his grandmother. Had Maurice had science on his side, his life may have turned out differently. Now there seems to be hope for babies born HIV positive. Doctors Persaud, Gay, and Luzuriaga are the trio responsible for the Mississippi baby, highlighted by the New England Journal of Medicine publication in October 2013. The case involved a Mississippi baby born with HIV who received high-dose aggressive therapy with anti-virals within hours of birth, effectively forcing the virus into remission.

VANCOUVER – SUPERVISED INJECTION: Insite, situated on the worst block of an area once home to the fastest growing AIDS epidemic in North America, is one reason Vancouver is succeeding in lowering AIDS infection rates while many other cities are getting worse. Insite has 12 supervised injection booths where nurses give clients clean needles and supplies to inject illegal drugs that addicts bring in on their own (drugs are not supplied). We follow Richard Teague, a former drug user through the alleys of Vancouver’s heroin district as he tells us his story of drug use and becoming HIV positive. Despite the research studies backing Insite and its harm-reducing approach, there is still profound discomfort for many with any facility that gives addicts a green light to inject illegal drugs, in violation of law. Governments, they argue, should not be facilitating illegal, dangerous activities. The film presents both sides of the controversy.

CAMBODIA-LIVING WITH HIV: Cambodia is one of the poorest countries and hardest hit by HIV/AIDS in Southeast Asia, according to the CDC. It is not unusual in Cambodia to find entire families affected by HIV, where the oldest child has the responsibility of caring for sick parents, as well as younger siblings who may also be infected by the virus. The film profiles Uch Navy, a woman whose husband committed suicide upon finding out he was HIV positive. She was later diagnosed with HIV and faced deep-rooted stigma from her family and community. Forced out of her village when her home was mysteriously set on fire, she moved back to live with family members near Phnom Penh. Out of fear of the virus, they too turned on her and she eventually ended up in the care of a Canadian NGO. She is one of the lucky ones. Many HIV positive people in Cambodia end up living in slums with little care.

WASHINGTON, DC – HIV POSITIVE ACTIVIST: 3.2% of the Washington, DC population is HIV positive. That is more than the populations of Ethiopia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. HIV is a crisis in African American communities, threatening the health and well-being of men and women throughout the United States. We follow Christian Paige-Bass through Washington, DC’s gay community as he spreads awareness around the importance of getting tested and seeking treatment. Due to the stigma associated with being young, black, and HIV-positive, gay and bisexual African American men are less likely to be tested. Today this group accounts for more new infections than any other group in the U.S.