Periclean video on women and AIDS debuts in Whitley

Elon’s Periclean Scholars Class of 2006 hosted the campus premiere of its latest video, “You Wake Me Up: Women and AIDS in Africa” Nov. 16 in Whitley Auditorium. Details...

The video is the fourth in a documentary series created by Periclean Scholars titled “Maturisa Ehinga: We are fighting AIDS.” The series, which includes video footage, photographs, and interviews collected during two journeys to Namibia, Africa by representatives of Project Pericles, serves to illustrate the realities of HIV/AIDS in Namibia and to inspire action among audiences in the U.S. and worldwide.

“You Wake Me Up,” written by Elon senior Ashley Moyer, explores the impact of HIV/AIDS on African women, both as a health issue and a socioeconomic issue. The video explains that women are more vulnerable to AIDS than men because of biological factors as well as cultural and economic situations that make them easy victims of the disease. Cultural phenomena like abusive sexual practices and widespread marital infidelity on the part of men serve to raise women’s chances of contracting the disease. Women also suffer as passive victims of AIDS, it says, missing out on opportunities like education because they must often stay home and care for family members with the disease, and are often hit hardest economically when a family member dies.

The video also showed women in Africa who are working to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and who are seeking to break the social stigma toward the disease that pervades some African countries.

Dr. Lucy Steinitz, Elon’s current Periclean-in-Residence, fielded questions and shared her personal experiences with AIDS in Africa following the showing of the documentary. Steinitz, who was featured in the film, is the founder of Catholic AIDS Action and is currently a senior officer for faith-based programs at Family Health International in Namibia, where she has lived for several years.

“I think part of the problem that we are facing is that the cultures of Southern Africa are changing rapidly outside of just HIV,” she said, noting the fairly recent independence of many African cultures and the cultures that have largely failed to keep up with changing social and economic situations. “The customs of old take a long time to change,” she said.

Steinitz also discussed AIDS as a global issue, and made note of growing infection rates in the U.S. She emphasized the importance of raising awareness of the issue at home in order to stop its spread both here and abroad.

“It’s not just ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ It’s here, sadly,” she said. “It’s consciousness in this society, the most powerful country in the world, that will affect international policy.”