From the Kaiser Family Foundation (South Korean Soap Opera Aims To Reduce Discrimination, Stigma Surrounding HIV):
South Korean television soap opera that aims to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS by portraying the story of an eight-year-old, HIV-positive girl has been receiving top ratings in its time slot, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the AP/Chronicle, the program’s audience has been steadily increasing since its premiere in March, and last week it reached 18.5% of television viewers during its time slot, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research.
In the show, which is called “Thank You,” the girl, Lee Bom, becomes HIV-positive through a blood transfusion. When villagers discover she is HIV-positive, they pressure her, her mother and her great-grandfather to leave the village out of fear they will contract the virus. The program’s producers have said that they aim to tell the “story of violence that rises from prejudice, discrimination and stereotype.”
According to Kim Hoon-soo, executive director of the Korea Confederation for HIV/AIDS Prevention, knowledge about HIV/AIDS in the country has increased, but “discrimination and prejudice” against people living with the disease is “still very strong and widespread.” Nam Jeong-gu, a researcher at South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the program “will help greatly to improve the public’s perception of the disease.”
The TV show sounds like a great idea. It reminds me of a situation I witnessed in 1995 on a flight between Raleigh Durham and Boston. There was a stir in the back of the plane because people were refusing to sit near a little girl who was travelingÂ alone. I didn’t hear exactly what was going on but am almost sure she had AIDS. Finally a man in first class with an open seat next to him (remember those days?) told the flight attendant to have her sit with him. She came up there hugging her teddy bear and slept through the whole flight.
This was well past the time that it had become clear that the HIV virus couldn’t be passed through casual contact, yet this little girl had to endure the ostracism along with the disease itself. I felt terrible for her.
I’m hopeful the TV show will spare some South Koreans from the same trauma.May 4, 2007