The film's central strategy is to provide concrete, personal examples of the way in which HIV/AIDS affects people - with a special focus on the lives agricultural workers, like Barnabus and Mary Chabala. Since HIV/AIDS typically strikes during the most productive years (ages 15 to 49), many fields across southern Africa now lay fallow. The Chabalas are losing not only food and cash crops but also resources like livestock and tools. "We had to sell everything we own to buy food and pay for our medical expenses," explains Mary.
Another focus of the film is on the very personal dilemmas of orphans like 19-year-old Mercy (who supports her two younger brothers through prostitution). On a good night, she says, she will have sex with 10 or more men—and for the right price, she will do so without a condom. Reflecting on this portion of the film, Marcela Villarreal, the Chief of FAO's Population and Development Service and the Organization's focal point for HIV/AIDS issues says that "Food security itself can be a means of prevention."
The film also features some of the community-based initiatives that have arisen out of the HIV/AIDS crisis - organisations like Kubatsirana, a volunteer support group working in Mozambique to help deliver home-based care, food, and HIV awareness. Depicted in the documentary is 14-year-old Sole, who has lived with his three younger siblings in a one-room shed since both his parents died from AIDS three years ago. While Sole is lucky enough to receive some food assistance from Kubatsirana, he is as unfortunate as other orphans in the sense that his parents died before they could pass on their knowledge about farming, crop varieties and tools. Without such skills, Sole and siblings are unable to produce their own food - or the income to buy it from others.
HIV/AIDS, Nutrition, Agriculture, Women.
Organisers explain that, despite abundant natural resources, sub-Saharan Africa is not an easy place to be a farmer. Natural disasters, chronic poverty, social problems, and civil strife contribute to food shortages and widespread malnutrition. In the last decade, HIV/AIDS has posed an additional challenge to this part of the world, where up to 80% of the population depends on small-scale agriculture for their food and livelihood. According to FAO statistics, AIDS has killed about 7 million agricultural workers since 1985 in the 25 hardest-hit countries in Africa. Food consumption has dropped by 40% in households affected by HIV/AIDS. Biological and social factors make females more vulnerable to HIV, especially during youth and adolescence. About 60% of people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are women. In some countries, infection rates are three to five times higher in young women than in young men.
Organisers point out that, when a person dies from AIDS, hardships often intensify for the family members they leave behind, particularly women and children. In some communities, a woman loses her access to land and other assets when her husband passes away. Since food production is frequently a female responsibility, such inheritance practices can affect the entire household. Family members may move away in search of food or work, increasing their chances of contracting HIV - and bringing it back home. For others, commercial sex may be the only option. Organisers claim that health services in this part of the world are not meeting the needs of these people.
"We hope this film will serve as a wake-up call to the world," says William D. Clay, Chief of FAO's Nutrition Programmes Service.