New Movie Takes Viewers On Musical Journey, From A Mine Shaft To Center Stage
After Highly Successful Film on HIV, Producers Come Together to Engage Millions in sub-Saharan Africa around Tuberculosis
From the producers of “Inside Story” comes a new feature-length film, THE LUCKY SPECIALS,combining the best of fiction and non-fiction storytelling to demystify tuberculosis (TB), explaining how it spreads and how it can be treated. Produced by Discovery Learning Alliance and Quizzical Pictures in association with Tangled Bank Studios with support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Wellcome Trust, and USAID and PEPFAR through the Leadership, Management & Governance Project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), THE LUCKY SPECIALS will entertain and educate audiences across sub-Saharan Africa, while empowering communities to make informed decisions about their health. The film will also be a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action helping audiences across the African continent understand and respond to TB. World Tuberculosis Day is March 24.
THE LUCKY SPECIALS begins in the dark, wet mining shafts of southern Africa, where rock dust and cramped quarters expose workers to various risks. Like HIV, TB is devastating communities across southern Africa in settings like this and others. TB kills more than one million people every year around the world and continues to be the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. Here, audiences will meet Mandla, a young man eager to make his mark on African music, played by Oros Mampofu. Other cast members include Blondie Makhene, Sivenathi Mabuya, Richard Lukunku, Thomas Gumede and Fulu Mugovhani; the film is directed by Rea Rangaka.
Oros Mampofu plays Mandla.
Through dynamic characters and a captivating storyline, THE LUCKY SPECIALS replaces misconceptions about TB with facts and shows the journey of TB bacteria inside the body through state-of-the-art animation. By making the film personal, practical and memorable, audiences will retain critical health information in a context that reflects southern African life and values.
“This movie is an unprecedented opportunity to shape how millions of people see, understand and respond to tuberculosis,” said Aric Noboa, president and executive producer of Discovery Learning Alliance. “We’re thrilled to be back to produce another film with Quizzical Pictures and honored to work with these world-class partners to entertain audiences while at the same time re-shaping the public dialogue around TB.”
“Innovative thinking and partnerships are crucial to effectively addressing global health challenges,” said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. “‘The Lucky Specials’ reimagines how to deliver lifesaving information about TB and HIV to affected communities, empowering individuals to make better informed health decisions. This unique approach transports us to the heart of local communities, which hold the power to help bring life-saving treatment to HIV-TB co-infected patients and, ultimately, achieve an AIDS-free generation.”
“HHMI is very excited to join with such great partners to help spread knowledge about TB,” said Dr. Robert Tjian, president of HHMI. “HHMI has a special interest in improving the understanding and treatment of TB in southern Africa. We formed the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV (K-RITH) as a special joint project between HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa specifically to combat the twin devastating scourges of TB and HIV.”
“Drug-resistant TB is a major health concern for people living in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust. “The need for research into the treatment and prevention of TB, as well as global awareness of the crisis of drug-resistant infection, has never been greater. I hope this film will play an important role in encouraging discussions and increasing understanding of the reality of living with TB, by providing a gripping personal story which explores the impact of the disease. Building on the success of ‘Inside Story,’ this film will not only bring the science to life, but also offer a relevant and engaging drama to a young mass audience.”
“Through MSH’s extensive work with TB over the years, we have seen the damaging role of stigma along with the urgent need for increased TB awareness. This film is a novel step to reach people with critical information in a time when it is more important than ever,” said Dr. Jonathan Quick, president and CEO of MSH. “Through partnerships like this one, and by continuing to implement critical interventions, we can together take huge steps to end TB.”
“Discovery continues to invest in the region and is pleased to bring informative African content to audiences across the continent and beyond,” said Doug Baker, COO & CFO, Discovery Networks International. “This is our knowledge brand at its best.”
“Inside Story,” Discovery Learning Alliance’s first feature film, is the most widely broadcast film ever in Africa, having reached more than 400 million people across the continent. “Inside Story” was developed to combat two significant challenges in HIV prevention and treatment: misunderstanding about how HIV works (the science), and HIV message fatigue. Like “Inside Story,” THE LUCKY SPECIALS will offer audiences an unforgettable experience, transporting them to a vibrant inner world where hard-to-grasp science is transformed into a compelling visual reality.
A comprehensive rollout of THE LUCKY SPECIALS will include theatrical film screenings, national television broadcasts and grassroots distribution by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), schools, and governments. Facilitator guides and educational materials are being developed for community and public health organizations and schools to help reinforce messages. A dedicated website will help expand the reach of film content to online audiences.
For more information about the film, visit www.luckyspecials.com.
The film is the latest in the #TreatmentforAll campaign to support treatment expansion and stop the spread of HIV
Durban, South Africa – On July 21, 2016, alongside the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030 and Ventures Africa, will debut Treatment For All: Our Lives, Our Stories, a documentary film that captures the deeply personal narratives of three African protagonists as they explore the impact of HIV on their lives and detail the wider ecosystem that supports access to treatment. A worldwide premiere of the film will take place at 9 a.m. SAST at the U.S. government exhibition booth at AIDS 2016, and will feature an engaging dialogue on treatment expansion as a key tool in the global HIV/AIDS response between Ambassador Deborah L. Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, and Uzodinma Iweala, Founder and CEO of Ventures Africa. This dialogue will also be live-streamed on Facebook Live.
Treatment for All: Our Lives, Our Stories chronicles the HIV epidemic as told through unscripted monologues of people contemplating themselves, HIV, and treatment in relation to crosscutting themes such as happiness, mortality, relationships, stigma and work. This is the second film to support the #TreatmentforAll campaign, a global movement launched on the eve of World AIDS Day 2015 to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic by scaling-up access to treatment for all people diagnosed with HIV. #TreatmentforAll calls on countries to prioritize the adoption of key policies and provide high-quality implementation to support the collective vision of treatment for all people living with HIV. The movement’s shared goal is to ensure treatment for 28 million people by 2020.
“Achieving treatment for all would be a game changer in ending the epidemic by 2030,” said Ambassador Deborah L. Birx. “PEPFAR is supporting partner countries in rapidly adopting and implementing the 2015 WHO guidelines for “Test and START” and more efficient service delivery models. Together, we can save and improve millions of lives.”
#TreatmentForAll was launched in response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) landmark HIV treatment guidelines, which for the first time called for everyone infected with HIV to be treated immediately. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), nearly 37 million people are currently HIV-positive, and of those only 17 million are currently on treatment. Treating all is key to ending the epidemic, and can be done with a more efficient use of existing resources and critical policy changes in high HIV burden countries. Together, by prioritizing and fast-tracking treatment, the world can collectively aim to support the shared vision of 28 million men, women and children on treatment by 2020. According to projections, this would reduce the number of new AIDS-related deaths and HIV infections by nearly 50 percent.
“We have been at war with HIV/AIDS for over three decades now, amounting to millions of unnecessary deaths and affecting millions more. It is morally reprehensible to delay the delivery of treatment to all people suffering from the virus, particularly as we have the funding to provide all with treatment,” said Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030 and for Malaria. “It is our collective responsibility to heed this call and provide treatment for all now.”
Recent momentum has set the path toward achieving #TreatmentforAll. A total of 22 countries have already adopted the 2015 World Health Organization Guidelines recommending that all people living with HIV be treated immediately, and many more countries have announced their intention to adopt these Guidelines by the end of 2016.
“The way we speak about the epidemic is crucial in framing how the public at large, patients, health care providers and policy makers unite to find solutions to a problem that has been with us for so long,” said Uzo Iweala, Founder and CEO of Ventures Africa. “We have come so far in the last ten years and it is clear that improving access to treatment is key in changing the local and global narratives around HIV and AIDS. Treatment for All: Our Lives, Our Stories is a short film that in looking at how narratives change when treatment becomes available also seeks to change the way that we view HIV/AIDS in the twenty-first century.”
#TreatmentForAll is one of the first movements to join Facebook’s internal social good initiative, Global Causes. Global Causes is a Facebook-wide program with an array of social good activities and serves as an opportunity for people to connect with each other over causes they care about, volunteer in local communities and educate and train nonprofits on how to use the Facebook platform and solutions most effectively.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the U.S. government initiative to save the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS around the world. This historic $70 billion commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum. PEPFAR is driven by a shared responsibility among donor and partner nations and others to make smart investments to save lives. For more information about PEPFAR, visit www.PEPFAR.gov, www.instagram.
Ray Chambers serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health in Agenda 2030 and for Malaria. In these roles, Mr. Chambers is tasked with guiding a seamless transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the health-related goals of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development by providing support to key stakeholders invested in health around the world. For more information, visit www.healthenvoy.org.
Ventures Africa is a Lagos, Nigeria based online platform dedicated to telling stories about an evolving Africa. With a focus on policy, business, innovation and culture, we report and create stories that reshape the way Africans think about the world and the way the world thinks about Africa. For more information, visit www.venturesafrica.com.
Jason Wright, Health Programs Group (HPG) Senior Director, Project Implementation
The International AIDS Conference has returned to Durban, South Africa after 16 years. AIDS 2000 was my first AIDS Conference. The theme of that conference was “Breaking the Silence.” While many others most remember the voices of former President Nelson Mandela or then President Thabo Mbeki, I most remember another South African voice.
Nkosi Johnson was an 11-year-old boy living with AIDS. He addressed a plenary session in a soft but powerful voice:
I hate having AIDS because I get very sick and I get very sad when I think of all the other children and babies that are sick with AIDS. … When I grow up, I want to lecture to more and more people about AIDS – and if mommy Gail will let me, around the whole country. I want people to understand about AIDS – to be careful and respect AIDS … Care for us and accept us – we are all human beings.
Unfortunately, Nkosi passed away less than a year-and-a-half later and was unable to see our great progress in the past decade-and-a-half.
Within a few years of the conference, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) were created – I was fortunate to be present at the creation of both while working at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) – and began massively scaling up HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment programs in South Africa and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.
With the Global Fund and PEPFAR, we have gone from hundreds of millions to tens of billions of dollars of funding for HIV/AIDS and from tens of thousands to tens of millions of people on treatment.
I am proud of the roles Management Sciences for Health (MSH) has played in bolstering the HIV/AIDS response, from implementing many global, regional, and bilateral projects under PEPFAR to setting the gold standard of technical support to Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCMs) and Principal Recipients (PRs) under the USAID Grant Management Solutions (GMS) Project.
The HIV/AIDS community set for ourselves the interim goal of reaching the tipping point, i.e., when the number of people starting treatment would exceed the number of people newly infected.
We have reached that interim goal in Africa, but we still have a long way to go to meet the ultimate goal of ending AIDS around the world by 2030.
The theme of the 2016 International AIDS Conference is “Access Equity Rights Now.”
The theme is apropos as there are still tens of millions of people who lack access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment services and rights, including key populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, sex workers, and people who inject drugs (PWID).
The next time the conference returns to Africa, I look forward to our being much closer to ending AIDS.
Struck with a prolonged and worsening illness, Faith, a 37-year-old Nairobi woman raising her two children, sought help from local clinics. She came away each time with no diagnosis and occasionally an absurdly useless packet of antihistamines. Finally, a friend urged her to get an HIV test. When it came back positive, Faith wanted to kill herself, and got hold of a poison.
All epidemics arise from weak health systems, like the one that failed to serve Faith. Where people are poor and health systems are under-resourced, diseases like AIDS, Yellow Fever, Ebola, TB, Zika, Malaria, steadily march the afflicted to an early grave, decimating families, communities and economies along the way.
Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic alone, over 34 million have died, leaving 25 million children orphaned. Strong or even adequate health systems would have prevented this tragedy.
A strong health system seeks to provide the largest numbers of people with the most opportunities to stay healthy. This requires infrastructure that many regions, countries and communities lack—well-supplied hospitals and clinics, research capacity and a skilled workforce. But it takes more than medical solutions.
Public health approaches with community connections are essential to inform the public about available treatment for diseases and how to prevent their spread. South Africa, for example, has announced a 3-year HIV awareness campaign focusing on girls and young women between 15-24 years, and the men who are infecting and impregnating them. It will cost $3 Billion ZAR (over US $200 million) funded by the government with help from international donors.
Countries across the globe have made tremendous progress in loosening HIV’s stranglehold on the world’s poor. Millions more people are on treatment and deaths have decreased even in the most impoverished and HIV-ravaged regions in Africa, yet a staggering 37 million people worldwide are living with HIV, with over 2 million newly infected just last year. Stigma continues to ostracize people from their homes and communities such that mothers like Faith would rather be dead than face her HIV diagnosis.
The problem is not only elsewhere; it’s here in America. Poor communities in the southern states happen to be home to the nation’s highest HIV rates.
The United Nations has called for the end of AIDS by 2030, a goal that should be realistically attainable since we now have the tools to defeat the disease. We have learned that successful antiretroviral therapy (ART) suppresses the HIV virus and dramatically reduces transmission.
No longer waiting for an HIV-positive patient’s viral loads to increase, countries are rapidly adopting the “test and start” protocol which begins treatment as soon as a person tests positive. Another innovation—PrEP— prophylactic medications combined with outreach and prevention strategies—is under way among people who are substantially at risk. They include men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, sex workers, couples where one partner is HIV-positive, transgender people and women and girls. Self-testing for HIV is gaining ground too; the more who learn their status, the more we can treat—and the more transmission arrested.
The new approaches are working. With daily adherence to medication, a person can enjoy a long and healthy future. When Faith found this out, she traded in the poison for a new lease on life.
While the UN 2030 target merits optimism, we have to answer tough questions: How will we reach HIV-positive people if there are no clinics for people to get tested at or treated, especially in rural areas? Or, what if there are clinics, but no supplies? Or clinics, and enough medications, but too few trained medical personnel to serve everyone who shows up? Or, if there are no prevention and outreach campaigns to dispel shame, how will we encourage those who most need testing and treatment to seek it—rather than remaining ignorant, untreated and a sexual risk to others?
What good are targets then?
What countries need to battle AIDS is the same as what’s needed for Zika or any emerging diseases. They need support from institutions in wealthy nations—funding that isn’t split between diseases but investments to fight them all, at once, while providing basic care that keeps people healthy.
There are models. Through the Global Health Security Agenda, a global initiative to strengthen health systems worldwide, countries from Peru to Uganda are working to openly assess and improve theirs. With the opening of a new healthcare skills and training institute, GE Healthcare recently committed to training over 10,000 healthcare professionals from across East Africa at its new facility in Kenya. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is partnering with the African Union to create the new African CDC to capacitate countries to address complex health challenges. Just this week, the World Bank announced the first of a series of investments to improve human and animal disease surveillance and health systems in West Africa following the Ebola crisis. There are many such examples—yet many more are still needed to diminish the microbial threat to humanity.
We can have all the medications and knowledge available to heal the sick, but if we don’t build strong health systems, we will continue to see AIDS and other epidemics cause needless illness suffering, and death, while crushing economies. We can enable people and countries to thrive, or continue to lurch from one public health crisis to another instead of stopping them all.
Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH is President and CEO of the global health nonprofit Management Sciences for Health and author of The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It (2017).
This post, first published on The Huffington Post, is part 5 in the MSH series on improving the health of the poorest and most vulnerable women, children, and communities by prioritizing prevention and preparing health systems for epidemics. Join the conversation online with hashtag #HealthSystems.
By Sarah Konopka, Technical Director and HIV/AIDS Advisor for the African Strategies for Health (ASH) Project
This week, thousands of experts, advocates, policy makers, and researchers are gathering in Durban, South Africa for the 21st International AIDS Conference. The conference creates an essential space for the community to come together, reflect on our efforts, celebrate victories, learn from our mistakes, and commit – with renewed energy – to an evidence-based HIV and AIDS response that upholds the rights and dignity of all people living with HIV.
While significant progress has been made in recent decades to advance access to treatment and prevent new infections, the burden of HIV and AIDS continues to weigh heavily on many countries in the African region. Groups most at risk continue to be disproportionately affected, and across the continent women and girls, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, sex workers, young people, and people who use drugs, are increasingly being left without access to prevention and treatment services. We must use this moment to establish a clear path toward guaranteeing that no one is left behind in the AIDS response and tailor HIV and AIDS research, policies, prevention, care, and treatment services to respond to their needs.
African regional actors, including regional economic communities, networks and associations, and technical organizations, are natural, strategic allies in this effort. Their leadership and position in the region, where the effects of decisions are felt, makes them powerful partners in the HIV response. They can make substantial contributions to the development and harmonization of policies and guide the delivery of HIV and AIDS services in Africa. By elevating issues facing people living with HIV, regional networks and associations are powerful advocates and champions for improved policies and interventions. Regional level discussions among heads of state at high-level summits convened by regional economic communities emerge as signed commitments and declarations that influence national planning and implementation for HIV and AIDS services. Regional technical organizations, pooling local technical expertise, can assist in the operationalization of these commitments through evidence-based, technically sound approaches, while regional networks and associations can, in turn, monitor implementation and drive increased accountability for the HIV commitments they make.
To maximize the benefits of collaboration and harness the cumulative impact of a joint and coordinated regional response, we must first understand each other. Effective partnerships and coordination will ensure that African countries are better positioned to achieve an AIDS-Free Generation and end preventable child and maternal deaths. Be a part of the solution: take time to meet your neighbors, understand the landscape, consider how regional actors can enhance your work, and build strategic alliances. We must not lose momentum – the time to act is now.
Learn more about how regional actors are working to address HIV and AIDS in Africa through the following resources, developed by USAID’s African Strategies for Health (ASH) project, implemented by Management Sciences for Health (MSH):
Read about our successful partnerships with regional institutions to strengthen HIV services for key populations in Southern Africa
- Browse the online database of regional organizations
- See more resources on HIV and AIDS featured in the ASH Synthesis Series
Are you in Durban? Stop by booth 328 to pick up ASH resources and meet MSH staff.
Not in Durban? Follow live #healthsystem coverage of AIDS 2016 on MSH’s blog or on Twitter @MSHHealthImpact with hashtags #AIDS2016 #healthsystem #AIDSFreeGen and #EndAIDS2030.
MSH will attend the upcoming International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa beginning July 18 through July 22. With nearly 20 attendees, MSH will present 15 posters and 2 oral presentations.
MSH will focus its presence as a health systems building and strengthening leader at the conference. AIDS kills millions in developing countries and wreaks havoc on local, national, and regional economies. Strong health systems fight HIV & AIDS and other infectious diseases and help save lives and strengthen local economies.
Check back here throughout the conference for live updates. Follow us on Twitter @MSHHealthImpact and #healthsystem.
Visit us at the International AIDS Conference at booth 328!