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should change their HIV and AIDS discourse
June 04, 2004
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had written Romeo and Juliet in the 21st century and Juliet had
said to Romeo as she had said then "What's in a name? That
which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet"
we would have rejected what many generations have accepted as true
because people living with HIV and AIDS more than anybody else have
suffered stigma and discrimination and a large part of it is expressed
is a popular form of expression that reaches millions of people
everyday, popular singers have the potential to reach communities
with health messages that can be understood by them. It is precisely
because of this point (music as a universal language) that musicians
who sing songs on HIV and AIDS should deliver quality information
that is not only correct but is sensitive to people living with
HIV and AIDS and respects and recognizes the inalienable human rights
that they are entitled - among others, human dignity. Yet they have
been shown to be implicated in the production and circulation of
negative HIV and AIDS images and these songs have not succeeded
or even begun to churn out positive messages.
are surely many other similar insights/examples from other countries,
my experience is specific to Zimbabwe. Most of the songs that have
been produced in Zimbabwe have made use of fear appeal - some of
which raise serious ethical questions especially in specific cultural
contexts. The Shona word Shuramatongo (literally a bad omen
to relatives) which has been used in some of these songs is stigmatizing
because it treats HIV and AIDS as an evil omen, a harbinger of the
bad things to come. The concept of "shura" is serious
in Shona Traditional African culture to the extent that a traditional
healer is normally consulted if a "shura" occurs. This
word has been common in the songs that Zimbabwean musicians have
been singing on HIV and AIDS. Though I am not certain the origin,
I can guess that the word was coined when people did not have enough
information on HIV and AIDS. To continue attributing AIDS to some
misunderstood Meta- physical elements is not only unacceptable but
false, undesirable and unnecessary.
song Mukondombera (another Shona term for HIV and AIDS),
though the message warns people to stop being promiscuous and indeed
warns people about the consequences of unprotected sex, the song
envisions AIDS as a deserved nemesis to the people, a divine punishment
of a Sodom and Gomorrah proportion. Mapfumo sees the epidemic metaphorically
as a big whip that has been sent by God. Nicholas Zacharia in The
Best of Khiama Boys suggests that love is now killing and that
this is the end of the world. This fatalistic attitude is further
endorsed in Clive Malunga's Ishe wangu (My Lord). In the song the
mother, the father, and the children have all been wiped out.
It is this pattern
of war and disaster metaphors such as AIDS scourge or plague that
should be avoided. We need to stick to scientifically correct terms
that do not associate AIDS with other disasters.
No new knowledge
about how to combat AIDS is provided. These songs, which are moral-cum-didactic,
are an attempt to construct a new moral community in the face of
HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. The problem is that these songs fail because
they do so from a position of ideological misconception about AIDS
and how it affects and what should in fact be done to cope with
the reality. There is still a sense that HIV can only be transmitted
through having sex with sex workers. This misconception narrows
the knowledge about the disease and the behavioural dynamics of
HIV transmission and creates a false sense of security in people
who think that they do not belong to these groups and as such are
not at risk. This is reinforced by the setting in most of the videos
of these songs where a bar or beer hall context is presented and
the assumption is that it is sex work alone that spreads HIV.
There are no
songs where a person is living positively with HIV and AIDS but
rather, musicians sing of people on their deathbeds. There are no
positive voices. Contracting HIV and AIDS is equated to the death
sentence. Musicians have metaphorically dug graves for People Living
With HIV and AIDS. This is wrong. The conceptualisation blurs the
differences between HIV and AIDS and the fact that some people have
been known to have HIV for ten years before AIDS develops. These
songs at best are alarmist in their mode of communicating HIV and
AIDS issues and at worst reduce the fighting spirit of people who
are living positively.
Some of the
songs, which are introspective, approach this introspection negatively.
Oliver Mtukudzi's song Todii?/Senzenjani? (What shall we
do?) talks in metaphorical terms about bearing death like a child
and how painful it is to know that you have AIDS. This can only
bring profound sadness and negative reflections to People Living
With AIDS. The song further talks about a baby, carried in an infected
mother's womb, which does not have a chance for survival. This is
simply not true. For instance in Africa, in the absence of intervention,
rates of Parent to Child Transmission of HIV vary from 15% to 30%
without breastfeeding, and reach 30 to 45% with prolonged breastfeeding.
all the new trends in HIV and AIDS communication, new musicians
in Zimbabwe have adopted street jargon and reinforced these negative
images. Diwali Rhythm sings about AIDS as a killer in their song.
The lyric A-I-D-S and AIDS is a killer is repeated as a chorus reinforcing
exactly the opposite of what health campaigners are preaching against.
Dino Mudondo and Willom Tight in their song Bhazi Rawakira
(The bus you have boarded) come up with a new set of images of a
bus that will not complete its journey and a bus full of thieves.
This concept may have been derived from street slang were a person
who is suspected of being HIV positive is referred to as having
beaten up by thieves.
In their creativity
musicians should not create images of suffering - many people Living
with HIV are happy and can have periods of relatively good health.
It is important to understand that describing people as AIDS victims
or innocent victims is to suggest that they are powerlessness.
Charamba's song Mhinduri Iripo (There is an answer) calls
for people to support people living with HIV and AIDS even if they
were promiscuous because they are God's people. Charamba, however,
ends up blaming the infected mother and her doctor for the child's
HIV condition. The problem with this description is that it wrongly
implies that people infected are always guilty of some wrong-doing.
Progress Chipfumo's song specifically presents woman as victims
of AIDS. True as this image may often be, the song portrays women
as hopeless victims, when in reality, they are often working actively
together with men to eradicate the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
a crucial role in communicating social messages and reach many African
people who do not have the craft competency to appreciate other
media or do not have access to these media (especially the seventy
per cent of Sub Saharan Africans who live in the rural areas). Musicians
are often opinion leaders in these communities and they should play
their leading role by not only accurately presenting information
and context on HIV and AIDS but also by being active champions of
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