Documentary Miss HIV Examines the Controversy over HIV/AIDS Prevention 

World AIDS Day is December 1

by Audra Jennings Monday, November 22, 2010
Oklahoma City, OK USA—Vietnam recently crowned Tran Thi Hue, a 28-year-old widow, winner of Miss HIV “Elegant Plus,” a national beauty pageant with a twist. While the 15 contestants were judged on beauty and contribution to their community, applications were reserved for those who have tested positive for HIV. EthnoGraphic Media (EGM) has produced a compelling documentary that describes the genesis of this pageant and the hotly-debated perspectives on combating the disease that lie beneath its surface.

Click here to watch a preview of Miss HIV
The film Miss HIV, produced by Mart Green and directed by Jim Hanon, showcases women in Botswana participating in a stigma-free beauty pageant, college students in Uganda fighting the stigma of choosing to remain abstinent, and gay rights activists at an International AIDS Conference combating stigmatization. According to Jim Hanon, the film’s award-winning director, Miss HIV “brings into the open the little-known struggle for dominance over AIDS education and prevention.”
The beauty contest was originally conceived in 2002 by Kesego Basha-Mubeli, the founder of an HIV/AIDS advocacy group in Botswana, “as a fun way to educate people about the need to erase the stigma” surrounding the disease. It was her hope that the winner of Miss HIV Stigma Free would be able to challenge misconceptions and have a national platform to communicate the importance of testing and living positively with the disease.
Botswana follows the lead of the U.N. which positions HIV/AIDS prevention as primarily an issue of human rights. Miss HIV contrasts this approach with Uganda’s ABC strategy which instead battles the pandemic in the arena of human behavior. Uganda promotes the priority of abstinence (A), then faithful behavior (B), and, lastly, use of condoms (C). Botswana’s approach, and the approach favored by most pageant founders, is the opposite: first encourage condom use, then increased faithfulness and partner reduction, and lastly abstinence.
Since its successful beginning in 2002, the Miss HIV pageant has spread to various countries including Nigeria, Russia, and Nepal, eventually making its way to Uganda. Within that country there is a raging debate regarding the importance of continuing to promote abstinence-first strategies for combating the disease. Recent studies also indicate that prevalence of the virus is again on the increase.
“Miss HIV exposes the heated rhetoric, high stakes, and heavy toll this battle has taken,” says Jim Hanon. It makes no judgment about the pageant which was held most recently in Vietnam. It also leaves open the question whether it innovatively counteracts shame, one of the largest obstacles in the battle against HIV, or encourages behaviors that spread the disease. The film is unapologetic and courageous yet consistently inspiring. It helps shine a spotlight on competing agendas that are complicating an already complex global crisis.

EthnoGraphic Media (EGM) is an educational non-profit (501c3) organization that explores the critical issues of our time. EGM uses media to tell true stories of hope and compassion in the midst of suffering and strife. EGM believes that gaining a deeper understanding of the human condition inspires positive action. The most recent projects include The Grandfathers, completing the End of the Spear and Beyond the Gates trilogy, and Little Town of Bethlehem.

Audra Jennings is Senior Media Specialist at The B & B Media Group. Since 1987, The B & B Media Group, Inc. has used its broadcasting, marketing and advertising experience to provide the specialized and strategic publicity necessary to achieve the public relations goals of each client. The Barnabas Agency, a division of The B & B Media Group, Inc., is a proven provider of exceptional public relations and personal management services for authors, speakers, ministries and organizations.

0    submitted by Audra Jennings
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