Turning Poison Into Medicine is a unique piece of verbatim theatre created in conjunction with St. Mary’s University Theatre and Theatre For Change. The piece is a compilation of the actual stories of people living with HIV.
Originally, this piece was produced for the stage and was taken to Malawi, where a companion piece was created from an African perspective. Un_Standard saw value in the piece, and wanted to get the message out to a wider audience. There was an opportunity to use this as an effective tool to help decrease stigma toward people living with HIV as well as spreading a prevention message to the 18-25 demographic.
Un_Standard produced and directed a screen adaptation of Turning Poison Into Medicine, shot at Nickelodeon Studios in London. Un_Standard also negotiated a deal with the Staying Alive Foundation to show the film on their website, namely in key markets in Africa, Europe and the United States. A forum was developed around this film to engage the 18-25 demographic around protecting themselves from HIV infection as well as reducing stigma toward people living with HIV. A deal was also negotiated with MTV to air Turning Poison Into Medicine on the UK channel, with potential to air in additional key markets. Un_Standard also negotiated a deal with the Swedish singer Robyn to record the soundtrack for Turning Poison Into Medicine and a deal was struck with the Red Hot Organization for distribution rights to the song. The film was edited into small segments to be used as a viral campaign targeting the same demographic as Staying Alive and MTV in order to gain a wider coverage for the core message.
The webcast and forum on Staying Alive Foundation went live in Fall of 2011 and the movie was broadcast on MTV UK in Fall of 2011. Turning Poison Into Medicine has now been turned into an ongoing project, with new stories collected and new versions produced with supporting forums and documentation created for each instalment. The project has gained the attention of the South African High Commission, where a version will be created in the future to be used in South Africa’s strategy in dealing with the HIV epidemic.