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HIV/AIDS Understanding Fostered through BIFF Films and Panels

Friday, December 1, 2006 is International HIV / AIDS Day, and will be observed in The Bahamas and around the world under the theme, "You, Me, Us… Time to Deliver, Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise.” There will be numerous events that entire week in The Bahamas to raise awareness of this horrible scourge which in The Bahamas affects in the range of 3,300 to 22,000 citizens.

Among these events will be a panel presented by the Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF), on Sunday, December 10, 2006, from 5:00-6:00pm at the Galleria 6 JFK in Nassau, "Panel on HIV/AIDS: An exploration of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the Caribbean. This panel will feature some of the most determined minds working in The Bahamas and US against, and bringing awareness to, this devastating disease - Dr. Araceli Castro, Director, Harvard University, Program in Infectious Diseases and Social Change; Mr. Wellington Adderly, Bahamas Network for Positive Living; Camille Barnett, Chair, Bahamas AIDS Foundation, moderator; Claus Mueller, Professor, Graduate Social Research Program, CUNY.

There will also be screenings of HIV/AIDS related films by BIFF throughout the day at the Galleria 6 JFK in Nassau. THE ORIGINS OF AIDS [Les Origines du SIDA] (2003, Canada/France), Directed by Catherine Peix and Peter Chappell. More than 20 years after the IADS epidemic started, we still do not know its origins. We know for sure that AIDS was born from contact between humans and chimpanzees infected by the Simian Immune-deficiency (SIV), a virus very similar to HIV. But where, when and how did this devastating contact occur? Many believe that the answer is hidden in the research undertaken by scientist Hilary Koprowski to find a cure for the polio epidemic. Between 1957 and 1960, Koprowski injected his experimental vaccine into almost one million Africans. Evidence shows that Koprowski used chimpanzees to manufacture his vaccine. The scientific community is wrought with dissension surrounding this controversy. As the scientific community’s ethical responsibilities are called into question, the debate over the origin of AIDS continues to rage on.

LOVE PHOBIA [Domabaem] (2006, South Korea), Directed by Kang Ji-eun and starring Cho Seung-woo, Kang Hye-jeong, Byeon Ju-yeon. A couple who knew each other when they were younger are reunited, but the woman seems to keep avoiding a romantic relationship.

LUCKY (2005, South Africa), Directed by Avie Luthra. An orphaned boy from Zululand, finds himself homeless on the streets of Durbin where his run-in with a racist old Indian woman turns into a bond as an unlikely mother and son.

At the end of 2005, an estimated 330,000 people were living with HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean. Some 37,000 people were newly infected during 2005, and there were 27,000 deaths due to AIDS. In three of the seven countries in this region - The Bahamas, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago – more than 2% of the adult population is living with HIV. Higher prevalence is found only in sub-Saharan Africa, making the Caribbean the second-most affected region in the world. More than half of adults living with the virus are women.

Amnesty International revealed, in a report in October, that the spread of HIV/AIDS in prisons in The Bahamas is extremely worrying. The most recent available statistics indicate that around 20% of the prison-intake population is infected with HIV and 32% with TB. In The Bahamas, one in every 200 inhabitants is in prison; the 14th highest rate in the world. The conditions are very poor and there is insufficient medical care and drugs. The wider population is also at risk of infection from released prisoners.

According to UNAIDS, the epidemic is in danger of spreading rapidly and widely if effective response is not taken.

BIFF urges everyone in the community to please be aware of this heinous disease and to be active in preventing its spread. AIDS is now one of the leading causes of death in some of these countries – Don’t let it be here!

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