Local film raises awareness about pregnancy and HIV

Producer of the film, Candice Lela-Rolingson, 28, of Arima first became interested in the impact of HIV/AIDS when she worked on the set of the film A Measure of Hope by Kirk Perreira at the Medical Research Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago in Port-of-Spain.

“I was just an amateur production assistant in my teens, but I was really enlightened,” she says. “The film was about people who willing submitted themselves to vaccine trials and drug testing. Many of them had lost someone close to them with HIV/AIDS.”

She holds a London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI ) diploma in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations from the School of Business and Computer Science (SBCS). After she graduated in 2003, she worked with the Eastern Credit Union.

In 2006, Lela-Rolingson started an image consultancy company called Fashionista Image Management.

She conducted corporate conferences about beauty, dress code, self-esteem and etiquette for the workplace. She continued to work at the Eastern Credit Union and offered her consultancy services simultaneously.

Earlier this year, the company incorporated her project management services and expanded the company which is now called Fashionista Image and Project Management in memory of her mother Jennifer Claire Walker Lela.

Lela-Rolingson also founded a non-profit organisation called The Walker Lela Foundation for empowering women and children in deprived situations due to poverty, homelessness, teenage pregnancy, mental illness, HIV/AIDS infection or incarceration.

The Walker Lela Foundation provides them with rehabilitation, education, employment opportunities, health advice, HIV/AIDS awareness and outreach programmes and other support services.

When she started dating her future husband, she encouraged him to get tested. “When I started to realise that things were getting serious I told him we should both go and get tested. I kinda used it as a scare tactic. It’s either he would say forget it we are not that serious or he would do it willingly and pursue the relationship.”

According to her, AIDS and AIDS testing are often taboo topics in relationships, but she firmly believes that women should take the initiative and bring up the issue with their partner.

In 2007, Lela-Rolingson was pregnant with her first child. During that time she started researching the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child and what treatments were available.

“I was always an HIV/AIDS activist. There was an ongoing interest. I always had a general concern for stigma and discrimination and sensitisation to HIV. If there was an HIV/AIDS march or rally, I was always there. But during this period, I started reviewing literature on mother to child transmission.”

Lela-Rolingson visited her gynaecologist for a check and asked her what options were available to women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

“I asked her what measures are in place for HIV-positive women and she asked me why I was concerned because I was not HIV positive. But she pointed me in the right direction of where to research.”

She learned that there are several antiretroviral drug therapies that reduce the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child without adverse effects to the foetus.

“Imagine that there is medication that HIV-positive women can take to prevent the baby from being born with HIV. These drug treatments and counselling are available in Trinidad and Tobago free of cost through the Ministry of Health. Women from other Caribbean islands come to Trinidad to access this treatment.”

By the time she had her second child, Lela-Rolingson had accumulated a huge file of research material and she thought about producing a film.

“My sister Stacy had graduated from UWI with a degree in Theatre Arts and she just completed a documentary called Rapso Music which was highly acclaimed within the rapso community. So I asked her if she would help me with the project and she actually directed this film.”

She approached the US Embassy for funding for the film in 2008. In November 2009, Lela-Rolingson was informed that was the recipient of a grant from the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Filming began on August 18 and the footage was shot within four days by Forcefed Productions. “Positive and Pregnant” is a 25 minute docudrama about a pregnant young woman who becomes tormented by fear for herself and the future of her child when she discovers that she is HIV- positive.

The cast included seasoned actors like Jeanine Lee Kim as lead actress, Naomi Abiola, Duane Dario 3D Dixon, Pauline Mark and Lylah Persad There is a guest appearance by HIV-positive Lorna Henry.

Singer and song writer Moses Babb wrote the song “Smile” for the film. The song entitled “Reach” by Shane Gibson AKA “Rizon” was also used in the film. These artistes and the guest band 3 Canal will be performing on the night of the premier in NAPA.

This film has been in endorsed by the Ministry of Health and will be used in the ministry’s HIV/AIDS initiatives in community centres, health centres and schools and other fora.

“It will be used as an educational tool,” says Lela-Rolingson. “This means a lot to me. This is my pet project and receiving the sanction by the Ministry of Health is like my pass mark. It gives ‘Positive and Pregnant’ recognition and credibility.”

The premier of the film “Positive and Pregnant” ties in with a project she is working on for the Ministry of the People and Social Development. Lela-Rolingson explained that the Ministry of Health started a community outreach campaign on November 15 and it will conclude on World AIDS Day which coincides with an AID awareness event being organized by the Ministry of the People and Social Development.

“I have been contracted by the Ministry of the People and Social Development to coordinate several events including the World AIDS Day event on December 1. It is a Health and Knowledge Fair that will be held on the Brian Lara Promenade in Port-of-Spain. This is a collaborative effort with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Security, UNESCO, NACC and the Red Cross. The real essence of the event is to encourage people to get tested for HIV/AIDS.”

“Positive and Pregnant” will premier on November 29 in NAPA at 6 pm. It is a invitation only event that will be attended my officials of the Ministry of the People and Social Development and the Ministry of Health, diplomats of the US Embassy and the cast and crew of “Positive and Pregnant”.

Positive pic

A scene from the film Positive and Pregnant.


"Local film raises awareness about pregnancy and HIV"

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