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Cambodian drama to fight Aids

June 2, 2003

A soap opera with a difference is about to hit Cambodia's TV schedules. Taste of Life, a medical drama aimed at increasing Aids awareness, is being launched on Wednesday.

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of Aids/HIV in Asia, and discussions about safe sex and condom use run counter to traditional cultural taboos.

The drama programme is being sponsored by the BBC World Service Trust, the BBC's charitable arm, using money from the British Government.

Matthew Robinson, one of the founders of the popular British soap opera Eastenders, has been involved in the drama's launch.

"It's very fast-moving," Mr Robinson said of the programme. "Cambodian audiences will have never seen anything like it.

"All the drama they've had up to now has been very exaggerated and very formal... and suddenly, they're going to be presented with Cambodians like themselves, being ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and I think it's going to blow their minds."

According to a BBC reporter in Cambodia, Tony Cheng, a huge stage has been constructed to house the fictitious Capital Hospital, as well as a nearby nurses' dormitory and the staple of all good soap operas - the local bar.

The story-lines, though, are also intended to carry a serious message - that safe sex stops Aids.

Radio phone-in shows and advertisements are being launched in conjunction with the show, as well as testimonials from those affected by HIV/Aids.

Taste of Life will run twice weekly on primetime Cambodian TV from September.

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