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|Newshour Series Examines The HIV-AIDS Crisis In Africa|
May 14-18 Segments Focus on Devastation Caused by Disease and New Efforts to Cope in the Face of Catastrophe
"We Face Extinction," says Botswana's President
KQED/San Francisco-Based NewsHour Team Produces Four-Part Series
San Francisco, California, May 9, 2001 -- Next week, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer will feature a four-part series on the crushing impact of AIDS on the people, the culture and the economies of two African nations, Malawi and Botswana. The segments, which begin Monday, May 14, will also present some heartening news: that real efforts are underway to deal with the disease and are already having some impact. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer airs weekdays at 6 p.m. on KQED Public Television 9.
"While there has been much debate about how to save lives and stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, there has been little on-site television coverage about the situation," says Lester M. Crystal, executive producer of The NewsHour. "The NewsHour decided to commit the time and resources to document the dire impact of AIDS in Africa because it is urgent news on every level -- local, national and international."
Senior correspondent Elizabeth Farnsworth and producer Joanne Elgart of The NewsHour's San Francisco office traveled in early April to two of Africa's most stricken countries, Malawi and Botswana, to report on the impact of the epidemic and on efforts to stop it.
Farnsworth and Elgart interviewed government leaders, doctors and caregivers, volunteers and health workers, patients with HIV and relatives of those who have died from it. They documented prevention efforts from grassroots levels to government-sponsored programs.
When reflecting on the situations in Malawi and Botswana, Farnsworth and Elgart say there was one discovery that exceeded all others: the enormous amount of volunteer work being done in both countries.
"We were very moved by the number of volunteers who were trying to help. Some had given up full time jobs to assist, whether it meant tending to patients or teaching prevention," says Farnsworth, a veteran foreign affairs correspondent. Elgart adds, "We saw so much being done with so little. It was inspiring to see people rise to the challenge of easing human suffering."
The NewsHour's series on AIDS in Africa will air as follows:
Malawi -- This segment will focus on the situation in Malawi, where one in every 11 people is believed to be HIV positive. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa and has few resources with which to combat the disease. Vice President Justin Malewezi says, "HIV-AIDS in Malawi and everywhere is more than just a disease. This is not an African problem; this is a world problem."
Maryline Mulemba with Doctors Without Borders says, "If you would say tomorrow one million people will die because of an earthquake, everybody will rush here and bring help, but people here will die slowly and in silence...the help coming is still very slow." Airs Monday, May 14.
Botswana Part I -- This country is more developed economically than Malawi, but it also has the highest rate of HIV-AIDS in the world; 36% of all adults are believed to be infected. This segment documents Botswana's extensive HIV-AIDS prevention campaign, both governmental and non-governmental. President Festus Mogae says, "We face no less than extinction, because we are seriously affected as a nation." Airs Tuesday, May 15.
Botswana Part II -- This segment takes a look at how the government of Botswana is working to get anti-AIDS drugs to all who need them. Farnsworth talks with leaders of Botswana and representatives of a diverse group of U.S. organizations offering assistance. Harvard AIDS Institute director Dr. Richard Marlink says, "I think with the partnerships the people from Botswana have created, they really are on the threshold of showing the rest of Africa and the world how to prevent and treat this virus in an African setting." Airs Thursday, May 17.
Discussion -- This segment will feature a select panel from those engaged in the global HIV-AIDS debate: experts, funders, African representatives, and people involved with deciding how much support the West should give and how best to give it. Airs Friday, May 18.
NewsHour Online -- The NewsHour's Web site, Online, will feature a special site about the series and complement it with daily updates, special reports and links. Go to pbs.org/newshour/health/aids_in_africa.
"Having Elizabeth Farnsworth and her NewsHour team based at KQED is a boon for the station," noted John Boland, executive vice president and COO of KQED. "Her series on the HIV infection rate in Africa is ground-breaking for television, and viewers in the Bay Area are especially keen to knowing the most up-to-date news, trends and analysis with the epidemic."
KQED operates KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most-watched public television station, and Digital Television 30, Northern California's only public television digital signal; KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM, the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation; the KQED Education Network, which brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents and media professionals through workshops, seminars and resources; and KQED.org, which harnesses the power of the Internet to bring KQED to communities across the Web.
Transcripts and tapes of segments are available to the press. Please contact Sara Hope Franks at (703) 998-2175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.