Lusaka’s “Love Games” Tackles Sex, Love, and HIV

Zambia 2013

By Jennifer James

July 16, 2013

Also published by Babble

In Zambia, where HIV/AIDS rates are some of the highest in the world, Zambia’s Ministry of Health has been thinking outside of the box beyond pamphlets, brochures and signs on the sides of in-town buses in order to spread HIV/AIDS education and awareness. They have stepped into the proverbial limelight with a weekly television series, Love Games, that is produced by Lusaka-based Communications Support for Health (CHS) and is funded by the US government agency, USAID. Due to the success of the first Love Games season another season was created and premiers Wednesday in Zambia.

Love Games is a show that follows the love lives of five Lusaka women through their up and down relationships with husbands and boyfriends. What makes Love Games  significant is it shows everyday behaviors of Zambians and the issues they face in real life like volunteer HIV testing, multiple, concurrent partners, condom negotiations, low condom use in marriage, and unsafe sex that all lead to increased rates of HIV/AIDS in Zambia. The hope of the government as well as its partners and USAID is that these episodes will get people to think about their sexual lives and take the necessary, individual precautions to prevent HIV/AIDS transactions.

Today while in Zambia as an International Reporting Project Zambia Fellow, we heard from one of the actors from Love Games, Pastor Kangwa Chileshe. As a pastor of a youth congregation, Chileshe has received negative feedback for his role in Love Games that has arguably pushed the envelope in HIV education. Chileshe told us that he believes his work is changing lives and there is no regret in his decision to be a part of Love Games.

Through an evidence-based approach, CHS and the Ministry of Health are seeking to change sexual behaviors in adults in Zambia, particularly Lusaka where HIV rates hover around 20.8 percent making it the district with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS. Women in Lusaka, for example, are three times as likely to be HIV positive than her sister in the more rural areas of the country. HIV/AIDS rates are so high in Zambia because adults, particularly men, not only have multiple partners, but concurrent partners making it a rampant breeding ground for the infectious disease to spread.

Loves Games, which airs on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), and is archived on Youtube is making a splash with its intended audience, especially after every show where a discussion section called Love Games Live puts the concentration on the issue that was portrayed in that week’s show and welcomes viewers to discuss along with them on Facebook.

You can watch episode 1 of Love Games below and follow the season throughout. The series is well-made with in-depth characters. Hopefully this modern approach to HIV/AIDS education will save more lives.

Jennifer James is the founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of mom bloggers who use social media and blogging to advance information to their networks about pressing global and domestic issues. She is reporting on HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB in Zambia on a trip with the International Reporting Project (IRP).

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