|© UNICEF video|
|HIV/AIDS activist Thembi Ngubane, 23, is the focus of the documentary, ‘Love (and Babies) in the Time of AIDS: A Journey to India’.|
MUMBAI, India, 31 January 2008 – The doumentary ‘Love (and Babies) in the Time of AIDS, A Journey to India’ follows HIV/AIDS activist Thembi Ngubane, 23, as she travels from her humble home in Khayelitsha, South Africa to the bustling centre of Bollywood in Mumbai, India.
The movie, initially shown in Africa this past year to commemorate World AIDS Day, focuses on Thembi’s discovery at the age of 16 that was living with HIV. Her ex-boyfriend had died from the disease. The revelation transformed Thembi from a carefree girl into a young woman focused on staying healthy for her unborn child while spreading awareness about the deadly virus and the importance of education in HIV prevention.
”When you are dating a person, you are young and you think this person is cool and you think you are the only one. All that love stuff is all you think of,” Thembi says in the documentary. “I was sure I caught the virus from him.”
Turning tragedy into purpose
Instead of letting her initial feelings of hopelessness take over, Thembi and her current boyfriend tackled their emotions together. They were determined to become role models in their community – not only for living healthy, positive lives but also for their determination to have a healthy baby.
“I found out everything I could and went to the [prevention of] mother-to-child transmission programme,” Thembi says. “I went for regular check-ups and counselling. My boyfriend was on the fathers’ programme. We were working together and I was given Nevirapine and AZT.”
Today, their baby Onwabo is a bright and lovely three-year-old.
Across cultural divides
Since Thembi learned of her HIV status, her story has appeared in media outlets around the world. A series on her life was featured on National Public Radio in the US. UNICEF also invited her to the Junior 8 summit held in Berlin last year to meet world leaders at the G8.
Another turning point came when UNICEF asked Thembi to go to Mumbai to share her experiences with other young women who are living with HIV. The UNICEF-supported projects she visited around Mumbai emphasized HIV prevention and life skills-based education, and focused on how the epidemic affects women from very different environments.
The documentary shows how Thembi was able to cross linguistic and cultural divides to reach some of the Indian women living with HIV. She formed bonds with quite a few of them as part of the Positive Network, an organization in Mumbai supported by UNICEF.
‘Love (and Babies) in the Time of AIDS: A Journey to India’ is filled with messages of hope and courage in the face of the epidemic – and of young women’s strength and empowerment in the fight to prevent the spread of HIV. The documentary is due to be shown on Indian television this year.
Sarah Crowe and Malli Kamimura contributed to this story from Johannesburg and New York, respectively.