LONDON (Reuters) - The head of MTV’s AIDS charity was nervous about launching this year’s World AIDS Day campaign without a celebrity, but decided to put her faith in two personal tales told by unknown youngsters.
The music channel is airing an hour-long television documentary “Me, Myself and HIV,” which follows the lives of 25-year-old U.S. college student Angelikah and 21-year-old aspiring musician Slim from Zambia. Both are living with HIV.
“It’s the first time that Staying Alive has done self-related reality, and I was very much influenced by some of the strong MTV programing like ‘Teen Mom’,” said Georgia Arnold who helped create the Staying Alive Foundation in 2004.
“I was very nervous about not having a celebrity, as distribution is often driven by the fact that there is a celebrity hosting it,” she told Reuters ahead of World AIDS Day on Wednesday.
“But I think this program is so strong because of the two voices - Slim and Angelikah.
“Celebrities are fantastic and have a role to play in all this, but the real voices of young people living with HIV are turning people on to the issue.”
Both of the featured youngsters go into some of the complications of living with HIV, but also share the positive message that people with the infection can lead full lives.
The show follows Angelikah and her boyfriend Taylor, who is HIV negative, as he gets himself tested, and the couple discuss how they can enjoy a normal sex life as long as they take the necessary precautions.
She has not told everyone at college about her condition and recounts to one fellow student how she fell out with her best friend who blamed her for ending up with HIV.
Slim is reluctant to open up about being HIV positive, but finds it a liberating experience when he eventually does.
Both discuss the daily routine of taking medication and the risks they face should they grow immune to its effects.
Arnold said the purpose of the film, airing on MTV’s global network of 63 channels in 159 countries reaching up to 596 million households, was not to trivialize HIV and AIDS.
Medication had serious physical side effects, and sufferers could be psychologically fragile, she added.
After the film was made, for example, Angelikah and Taylor broke up.
“Being HIV positive may not be the death sentence it used to be, but at times like these it leaves me feeling like I’ve been sentenced to life in solitary confinement,” Angelikah wrote in a blog from a hospital where she was being treated for depression.
“I know with my being undetectable and by being safe every time, the odds of me passing it on to someone else are slim or next to nothing. Sadly facts don’t always win over fear. It shouldn’t be this way, but stigma is a powerful thing.”
Arnold said the main message of Me, Myself and HIV was to encourage people to get tested so they knew whether or not they were positive and could do something about it.
“The concern is that people say ‘what’s the problem? It’s gone, it’s forgotten about’. Thousands of people a day are dying of AIDS-related diseases.”
In 2009, some 33.3 million people around the world had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato