Steps For The Future: A tool to overcome audiences’ AIDS fatigue

Audience viewing a film

Between December 2011 and May 2012, the GIZ programme PROFILE contracted Steps For the Future (Steps) in order to explore the  methodology could be utilized by GIZ health programs in selected partner countries including South Africa, Malawi and Namibia. The  Steps documentary film project began in 2000. In 2001 Steps was registered as a Non-Profit Organisation in South Africa. So far, it produced 38 films and received several awards for them. Just recently they were given the TEDDY Award  at the Berlinale 2013. The Steps films intend to promote debate and discussion around HIV/AIDS related topics such as disclosure, discrimination, treatment and living positively. Learn more about Steps at

The method

Steps For The Future employs an innovative twofold communicative approach that aims at promoting behavior change and reducing stigma and discrimination against people affected by HIV and AIDS: On the one hand, they produce high-quality, professional films through collaborations of Southern African and international filmmakers, broadcasters, AIDS organisations and people living with HIV and AIDS. These documentary stories – produced and filmed through participatory methods – portray the effects of the HIV and AIDS pandemic on the lives of individuals, families, communities and nations from the perspective of those affected themselves. On the other hand, Steps conducts facilitated screenings of their documentaries (and occasionally also of films not produced by them), trains facilitators and also trains and mentors facilitators’ trainers. Through this comprehensive approach, they bring to the fore sensitive yet often neglected topics, and facilitate open debate and discussion around HIV and AIDS related subjects such as disclosure, discrimination, societal norms, everyday life decisions on issues like protected/unprotected sexual intercourse and multiple concurrent partnerships, and living positively. The audiences learn through the engaging medium of film, motivating communities and individuals to participate in the decisions that relate to their development.  

Cooperation between Steps and GIZ

The objective of the consultancy between 1.12.2011 and 31.05.2012 were

  • to strengthen local organisations’ capacity in facilitating open discussion after film screenings and
  • to explore possibilities of how the Steps methodology can be utilized by local GIZ health programs in selected partner countries including South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi and Namibia.

GIZ commissioned Steps with the following tasks:

  • Conduct training workshops on the methodology and the films of for GIZ partner organizations in Namibia, South Africa and Malawi
  • Conduct mentored film screening programs in the respective countries
  • Help to develop a concept on how the methodology can be utilized by GIZ health programs in the respective countries
  • Translate three existing Steps films into two other languages that are widely used across Southern and East Africa.
  • For each film, develop a guide for facilitators that provides background information and guiding questions for the subsequent discussions.

The budget GIZ provided to Steps for these tasks was approximately 136 000 €.

Results of the Cooperation

  • 87 representatives of organisations, linked to the Steps regional network, GIZ country offices programs, National AIDS Councils, Government departments, and Non-Governmental partner organisations attended the workshops on the methodology of.
  • 25 partner organisations participated in the coordination and implementation of 39 facilitated films screenings in Namibia, Botswana, Malawi and South Africa. In total, around 3000 audience members of different age and gender, including people living with HIV, HIV support groups, community groups, health services, faith-based organisations, NGOs, Government departments and decision makers, were reached.
  • The reports of the facilitated screenings were analyzed and they show evidence that the dialogue and information sharing about HIV and AIDS and reproductive rights among the audience members were increased.
  • Moreover, the facilitator guide for the film “Three and a half lives of Philip Wetu” was edited and re-designed by Steps and distributed into their network throughout the Southern African region. The film was also used during the screenings that were conducted in the framework of the cooperation between Steps and GIZ.

Steps for The Future has established an impressive Southern African network of film producers and partner organisations trained to implement facilitated screenings. Several GIZ programs have worked with them after the cooperation between Steps and SV PROFILE ended:

In South Africa, for example, Steps supported the GIZ health program in producing two additional films about topics which were identified as highly relevant in regards to the HIV epidemic in the province of Eastern Cape. This approach was based on the UNAIDS recommendation “know your epidemic, know your response”. One film is about alcohol and drug abuse and the other one about TB and HIV. The production costs for each film were around 100 000 €. In this process, the Eastern Cape AIDS Council (ECAC) was one of the partners, since it was hoped that they would include the methodology into their campaigns in order to enhance their programs. GIZ staff stated that through their involvement it was easier for Steps to get in touch and cooperate with ECAC. However, it seems difficult that the ECAC will take over these activities in the long run.

In Malawi, the GIZ health program also continued the cooperation with Steps and started building up capacity within selected organisations working in the field of HIV in the communities in Malawi. They hope to be able to evaluate these programs to then share the results with the government and other interested partners in order to scale up the activities by incorporating the Steps methodology into communication campaigns conducted by the government or by other organisations.

In Namibia Steps supported the GIZ health program to produce the interactive film “Three and a half lives of Philip Wetu”, which was first shown in Namibia. Steps helped GIZ to edit and re-design the facilitator guide so that the film can now also be screened in other Southern African countries.


The Steps methodology is a powerful tool in terms of bringing to the fore sensitive and taboo topics, such as HIV, sexuality and reproductive health, by facilitating open debate and discussion of them. The films make it easier for members of the audience to reflect on their own beliefs and their behavior. The Steps methodology tool can also be used for any other topic that needs more debate in a society.

Steps has enriched the range of tools used in GIZ health programmes to provoke discussion and reflection and to promote behavior change. GIZ experts who have worked with this method recommend it to their colleagues and partners and hope that it will eventually be used by many more health, youth or education programs.


"Taking People into the Lives of Others"

A technical discussion about the approach of “Steps For The Future” in the area of education and behaviour-change communication on HIV and AIDS, 14th of February in Berlin

Temus is HIV-positive, but his wife is not. They want a child. This is the starting situation of a movie presented by Steps For the Future, a self-help initiative founded 2001 in South Africa, on February 14th in GIZ´s office in Berlin.  Despite a generally high HIV-prevalence in Sub-Sahara Africa, stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV are rife. Steps For The Future aims at changing this by presenting movies which address controversial topics around HIV and AIDS. Trained facilitators – often the protagonists of the movies themselves – are moderating subsequent discussions with the audience. “By taking people into the lives of others” as explained by founder Don Edkins and his colleague Elaine Maane from South Africa, the people relate to the films and realize that there is a need to talk about HIV, if one is directly affected or not.

Steps For The Future uses a rights-based approach. They furthermore do not only support local film producers, but also take the movies to those living in rural areas that usually lack access to any kind of media.

So far approximately 50 movies around topics related to HIV have been shot and were dubbed in 18 local languages.

Among others, GIZ backed Steps For The Future financially from 2005 to 2012. GIZ´s audience in Berlin, consisting of many representatives of civil society and BMZ, univocally agreed that the approach was intense, impressive, inspiring and definitely worth of future support.

Today (15 February 2013), Steps for the Future will be bestowed upon with the “Special TEDDY AWARD for HIV Awareness” by Berliner AIDS-Hilfe within the framework of the Berlinale film festival.

Further information about Steps For The Future is available online:


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