|Musicians for AIDS awareness (Daily Star)
|Lebanese bands help get the message across to youth
Today is World AIDS Day and as in numerous countries around the globe, young bands in Lebanon alongside local AIDS foundations are doing their bit to spread awareness in a country where for the majority of society the disease remains a taboo subject.
The rock group Blend will headline the "AIDS UNcensored" concert at the Beirut Forum alongside support from popular local Arabic rap group Aks'ser and the band Seven Spirits, while at the Sagesse Amphitheater in Jdeideh the Ziad Ahmadie oriental trio will perform alongside jazz fusion group Ever Green in "Songs Against AIDS."
For Samar Kehdy, of concert promoter "In Concert" responsible for the Sagesse gig, little could be more pressing than using music to promote a cause.
"The subject of AIDS and HIV is vitally important for us in Lebanon. It is a marginalized subject and many people with the disease are rejected by mainstream society," she says.
Nadia Badran, a social worker responsible for the Health Care Association SIDC's projects with AIDS was equally forthcoming.
"The number of declared AIDS patients or HIV infected people on record in Lebanon is 800 but the World Health Organization estimates the figure of affected people is closer to 3,000," Badran says. "The majority of infected people are aged between 30 and 40, and 70 percent of those who contract the disease do so through unprotected sexual intercourse, primarily heterosexual."
"It is a social, financial and health problem affecting all areas of society and is especially dangerous for young people, and those caught up in problems with drugs. So doing concerts on World Aids Day is a vital way to get through to people," Badran explains.
Kehdy agrees. "I organize concerts and I wanted to help. Like cinema, music is one of the entertainment mediums which reaches a mass amount of people, especially the young," she says. "It is the most direct way to express a message without censorship."
The HIV/AIDS epidemic was introduced to Lebanon in 1984 when the first AIDS case was diagnosed, according to figures from the Lebanon National AIDS Control Program, a joint project of the Lebanese Health Ministry and the WHO. Since then, the number of cases has been slowly but steadily increasing.
Data on high-risk groups (intravenous drug users, prostitutes, prisoners), is incomplete, although says Badran the problem does exist.
Promoting a positive message about AIDS and HIV through music concerts can reach a large number of potentially endangered young people who have no solid education on the subject.
For Jad Souaid, the lead singer of Blend, changing society and spreading awareness is exactly why he agreed to perform in the AIDS UNcensored Concert tonight.
"This concert is an opportunity to talk a lot about political and social issues in our music that are not given enough prominence in Lebanon. And HIV/AIDS is one of those issues," Souaid says.
"The problem with Lebanon is that society tries to suffocate ideas and situations it doesn't like. We need to talk about everything. The war is not over yet. People need to wake up.
"And this concert allows us to get positive exposure for Lebanon and at the same time promote a crucial social cause in AIDS."
"AIDS UNcensored" featuring Blend, Aks'ser and Seven Spirits is at the Beirut Forum from 8:30 p.m. tonight. Tickets are LL12,000 and all proceeds go to Lebanese AIDS patients. Call +961 3 605479 for more information.
"Songs Against AIDS" featuring Ziad Almadie and Ever Green is at Sagesse Amphitheater from 8 p.m. tonight. Entry is free but donations are welcome. Call +961 3 906150 for more information.
The Daily Star