"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
Positive Responses to HIV
is an international photographic project portraying the personal
stories of men, women and children living with or affected
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 is project director of Positive Lives. For more
information he can be contacted at
email@example.com; to view more images and stories
go to www.positivelives.com