Prejudice against AIDS sufferers revealed

Menna Taher, Sunday 26 Dec 2010

As part of an HIV awareness campaign by the international organisation Y-Peer, Reem El Meligui, an American University in Cairo theatre graduate, is directing a play about the hardships that AIDS patients face

Baeed Aanak

Awareness campaigns can sometimes be nauseatingly preachy, but this play didn’t make that mistake and is informative and helpful for anyone who doesn’t know much about the disease.

The play,Baeed Aanak,  (Far from you) relates the stories of three Acquired Immune Deficiency  Syndrome (AIDS)  patients, who each caught the virus in a different way and find consolation together because society has shunned them. It depicts the cruelty of society, as well as its ignorance of the disease, with some people scared of catching it through a sneeze.

One of the characters,Yassin, gets the disease through sex  after  meeting two strangers, a man and a woman.  There are allusions to his homosexuality at first, but this doesn’t develop and remains only hinted at. Therefore his sexual orientation isn’t clear and the existence of the woman made it more confusing.  It wasn’t clear whether she was a prostitute who had sex with both men or they all took part in a threesome. The other character, Youssef, a tennis player,  is infected  with the virus after he has a blood transfusion that is contaminated, The third character, Farida,  catches the disease from her husband, who was cheating on her.

The play seemed to tap into many different ideas, yet never really delves into them, such as the negligence of hospitals and the patients’ hope for a better life abroad. It also failed to probe into the psychology of a sick person and the repercussions that his physical condition has on his mental state. Apart  from mentioning that they have Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the characters don’t show any signs of sickness. Though the disease does not exhibit symptoms in the early stages, Farida, who was at a later stage, didn’t even complain of any physical ailments. It wasn’t  even apparent how the immune system is affected by the illness.

The play raised important issues such as how society views AIDS and how sufferers are outcasts from society, as well as how a person’s  downfall can be the gossip at a club.

The biggest problem with the script, however, is that it seems to be written for another medium, such as a film or television series. The writer didn’t adhere to one of the basics of writing plays, which is setting the story in limited locations. The set tried to deal with this challenge and was structured to be easy to adjust and move around, to allow the play to represent several places, from different homes to the hospital, coffee shops, a laboratory for blood tests and a police station and consequently it had several scene changes that were distracting.

 Following the performance there was a discussion about the disease. The moderator explained that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, but is not the sickness itself , adding that at the earlier stages when HIV is detected it usually has no symptoms. He also mentioned that there is medication to help boost  the immune system but does not treat the virus. The symptoms at later stages include diarrhoea, frequent colds and a high temperature.

On the programme there was information about the disease and a hotline number for AIDS patients: 08007008000

Performances take place at the Saadeya high school beside Cairo university on 23, 29 and 30 December at 8 pm

Short link: