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Game Drive: What World AIDS Day Means in Africa

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By Jos Dirkx on December 7, 2010

On a continent where HIV/AIDS is still a top-five killer, it’s no surprise that World AIDS Day, which took place on December 1st, 2010, commanded significant attention.

In South Africa, a country known for its high prevalence of the deadly virus, the 6th Annual Worlds AIDS Day Concert was held at the Artscape Opera House in Cape Town. The concert featured artists such as Grammy award-winning South African music icons Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sharon Kips (the 2007 X-Factor winner in Europe), Soli Philander and the New Apostolic Church Cape Symphonic Orchestra and 150 Voice Choir.  

The director, producer of this concert and international recording artist, Jimmie Earl Perry, who in addition to being a magnificent performer, is the first appointed UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador to South Africa. I enjoyed a chat with him about his experience in mounting such a concert event this year, and he shared with me that such an event, foremost gives exposure to excellent work that is being done in South Africa to combat HIV/AIDS, through advocating access to treatment to everyone, education and the promotion of human rights worldwide.

These factors are important, and it is crucial to bring continued awareness to the fact that positive change is taking place, albeit sometimes at a slow pace. The most important element is that people must learn together and share information. He mentioned that the full house at the concert was inspiring, and told me, “As with any performance, the audience is key in determining your success by their responses” during the performance and through post-show comments. Every performer on the stage projected the celebration of the evening.

Perry mentions that he has seen improvements in the dialogue surrounding HIV/AIDS in his direct environment around Stellenbosch and Cape Town. People are accepting that they must speak openly and intelligently about sexual behavior and teach children the facts of sexual responsibility. Much more needs to be done.

According to Prof. Perry, “Dialogue has begun in family structures, workplaces, churches and schools,” yet there is plenty of room for change. By being a UNAIDS Special Goodwill Ambassador to South Africa, Prof. Perry feels he has easier access to opening difficult doors. He feels that this appointment has allowed for “a greater platform to reach more people in our awareness programs.”

The Africa Centre for HIV/AIDS Management team is dedicated to education and prevention of HIV/AIDS, such as Perry’s educational theatre. This group of young performers travels throughout the provinces and Namibia to spread accurate information about the virus throughout the year in a 30-minute mini musical, called “Lucky, The Hero”.

Jimmie Earl Perry’s newest album “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” is now available online at www.aidscentre.sun.ac.za or www.jimmieearlperry.com.

Jos Dirkx has lived on five continents and currently resides in South Africa. Her passion for social justice and gender equality has propelled her participation in projects, debates, fund-raising and campaigning for increased public awareness of women’s rights, and her hands-on experience with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Sudan has furthered her dedication to making social justice and gender equality a worldwide priority. Read her HV archive here.

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