Film is not just a big business in Nigeria. It’s huge. Every
year nearly 2000 movies are made, a production rate which beats Hollywood, only
coming second to the world’s largest film industry, Bollywood. But when the
important topic of HIV and AIDS comes up in many Nollywood movies and Nigerian songs,
it’s often not accurately - or helpfully - treated.
Our team at BBC Media Action in Abuja recently set out to
tackle this by talking directly to the musicians, comedians and filmmakers
behind our booming entertainment industry.
As part of the ENR (Enhancing Nigeria’s Response to HIV) project
funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, we ran two
workshops in Lagos. These aimed to not only inform the producers, directors, singers
and scriptwriters about HIV but also encourage them to tackle the subject in
their songs and films.
This year World Aids Day – 1 December – is encouraging people to ‘act aware’ (Photo by Brent Stirton. Getty Images for the GBC)
According to Nigeria’s National Agency for the Control of
AIDS, 3.5 million Nigerians are currently living with HIV. But misconceptions about
HIV and AIDS are common.
Our workshops gave people – including some of the biggest
names in the industry – the space to ask questions and fill in the gaps in
From left to right: Musician Ade Bantu, comedian Koffi, musician KA$H-11, HIV-prevention specialist Dr S Oyedeji, music producer and actor David Nnaji, and musicians Tee-Y Mix and Daddy Showkey.
I remember one filmmaker admitting he didn’t know enough about
the effects of HIV and another asking about whether hair clippers can transmit the
And as well as the scientific facts, participants learned
about audiences’ knowledge and behaviour – and met people living with HIV.
Producer, writer and director, Elimihe Osezuah told us that
the experience was life-changing: “Opening
my mind to the fact that HIV is manageable and seeing healthy HIV-positive
people is mind-blowing. I shook their hands and hugged them.”
By the end of the workshops, many of the participants also
appreciated the role they could play in tackling HIV. One filmmaker told us
that she had learned “that HIV and AIDS-related
messages are not as over-flogged as I thought. Awareness [of HIV] is less than
We also scored some exciting,
immediate successes: two filmmakers gave their recently completed scripts to
our team so they could be checked for accuracy and several of the filmmakers
who attended agreed to work with us to produce scripts for four short films
By the end of the two days,
many others had made promises to interweave information and messages about HIV
into their music, films and blogs.
Nigerian/German Ade Bantu said he would “engage
my audience by sharing condoms and leaflets during shows, incorporate HIV
messages in our music videos and use my blog to share information about HIV and
Singer J’odie said she would “subtly weave in the urgency
of [tackling HIV] into my work”, writing a song to “inform and entertain
people, nudging them towards a new mind-set towards HIV”. Another filmmaker, meanwhile, promised to
write short comic skits targeted at 15-24 year olds which would be available
Almost all the participants told us they’d be happy for us
to hold them to their promises.
And I, for one, just can’t wait to see what they create.