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Positive lives


"AIDS in Africa is claiming more lives than the sum total of all wars, famines, floods and ravages of deadly diseases."
Nelson Mandela, XIII International AIDS Conference, Durban 2000

Positive Responses to HIV is an international photographic project portraying the personal stories of men, women and children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

The images and text represent their personal experiences and the issues and emotions that confront them. Some stories reveal the fear and shame created by misinformation and prejudice, but they also reveal the strength, hope and commitment of those who struggle against the spread of HIV and those who care for the individuals affected by it.

By sharing these stories, we are all confronted with the challenges, myths and prejudices of this disease and can undermine the view that HIV is someone else's problem. These photos show that HIV affects all communities, no matter what race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation.

Equally important, the project educates by showing what individuals and communities are doing to deal with the problem, often with little resources.

The project came about and continues to be organized by a group of volunteers from the British-based charity, Terrence Higgins Trust, and the photographic agency, Network Photographers. This collaboration, and the financial support of a number of organizations (the Levi Strauss Foundation in particular), helps the project make a positive response to the impact of HIV.
As the project has grown, key associations have been formed with local and international agencies who share a common purpose of challenging the stigma and prejudice surrounding the disease, raising public awareness and influencing political and community leaders. One of these associations is with the Federation, which is assisting in identifying and utilising stories as part of its ongoing HIV education programmes.

"The pictures and stories in this exhibition show the suffering and the tremendous courage of people living with HIV/AIDS," said Alvaro Bermejo, the head of the Federation's health and care department in Geneva. "I am confident that this exhibition will contribute to changing the attitudes that many of us have as individuals and organizations towards people living with the virus."

The project is only made possible by the courage and commitment of the individuals who are prepared to share their stories, in the hope that by doing so, they can make a difference for others.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan is project director of Positive Lives. For more information he can be contacted at; to view more images and stories go to

In Manipur India, grandmothers are affectionately called 'Bobok'. With the breadwinner of the family ill or dead, she will go out and beg on the street if necessary, but she will never abandon her children or grandchildren. If they are HIV positive, she will care for them as long as they live. Tombi Sumati is no exception. After he tested positive and his wife left him and their son, Tombi began caring for them both.

A member of a church youth group demonstrates the correct way to use a condom to avoid contracting HIV from sexual intercourse during a peer educator training session run by Médecins du Monde near Bukoba in north-east Tanzania.

Stephen Vidyakar, an orphan himself, set up an orphanage 15 years ago. Today he has centres all over India to look after desitute individuals, orphans and the mentally ill. He also gives shelter to children of parents who have died of AIDS and to HIV positive babies, since most public orphanages will not accept them.

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