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UN-backed drama broadcasts call attention to HIV/AIDS for millions in Africa

UN-backed drama broadcasts call attention to HIV/AIDS for millions in Africa

Heart and Soul, a prime time television and radio opera about the lives of two African families, is bringing issues such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and human rights to hard-to-reach populations in East Africa, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which is spearheading the project.

The drama was inspired by East Enders, the popular BBC soap opera which is directed by Mathew Evans, who is collaborating on the Kenyan production. UNDP says Heart and Soul could reach a potential audience of 50 million to 75 million people.

The agency said a six-episode pilot series directed by Kenyan Ken Shitsugane had run successfully in Kenya with broadcasts in 23 other countries. Producers were putting together two series of 13 episodes for television and radio in April and October 2003.

"This project is of immense importance to us in Kenya and indeed to our brothers and sisters elsewhere on the continent," said Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Minister for Tourism and Information who noted that more than 200,000 Kenyans died of HIV/AIDS last year and that 2.5 million were living with the deadly virus.

UNDP said the entire United Nations country team in Kenya, consisting of 24 agencies, was backing Heart and Soul with support from Government, local and international sponsors, including Beiersdorf-Nivea (East Africa), Coca Cola Africa Foundation, Western Union, the British Council, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, Ford Foundation and the Government of Norway.

The agency said plans were underway to produce the programme in French for broadcast in francophone African countries. Production materials will also be made available to radio stations in other African countries to enable broadcast in local languages.