A growing number of HIV-positive bloggers around the world are using citizen media to express how they live with the virus.
Speaking openly about HIV/AIDS can be difficult. Millions of people have contracted the virus, but the fact that it is feared so much and that it can be transmitted through sex, means that people living with HIV are often stigmatised. Still, dozens of brave individuals chronicle their personal stories, and sometimes also activism for their rights or better health care, in blogs and internet forums that can be read by anyone.
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Busi, a blogger and poet from South Africa found out that she had HIV in April 2006, six months after she was raped.
Here is her sad story, as she described it in her blog My Realities:
Not so long ago i discovered that i was HIV+. I was attacked and raped far too many times in order for me to contract the virus. You see, the reason for that is that i am a woman who identifies as lesbian because of my involvement with a woman. My attackers and different rapists did so to show me how it is to be a woman.
Busi did not survive in this beautiful world as she succumbed to her disease in March, 2007. But her blog and poetry remain as a powerful testament of her life, as will the blogs of others so long as a cure remains elusive.
Chinese HIV-positive blogger Li Xiang was infected with HIV during a blood transfusion when he was a teenager in high school. He started blogging in 2005 when he was in his twenties. In a blog post earlier this year (in Chinese) he attempts to demystify AIDS by saying people should not fear it more than any other cause of death, and that he himself is no longer scared thanks to the improvements in medical treatments.
Kiks is a Filipino blogger based in Kowloon, Hong Kong. In 2007, he discovered that he had HIV and wrote about dealing with this fact:
Being HIV positive is not the least bit fascinating.
It is like having a heart disease for life although my doctors told me it was better than having diabetes. With the medicines so readily available nowadays, you can be sure to live longer than cancer patients, anemic or the elderly staying in big polluted cities like Manila.
Freerangelife is the blog of a dyslexic gay man from the UK who has lived with HIV for more than 20 years. He writes in a recent post about the danger of ignoring taking precautions:
We have known about HIV for over 20 years, people know the risks. So why does it happen? It happens because we like taking risks and we often think “it will never happen to me”.
Republic of Congo
Davy Herman Malanda at the Aids Right Congo blog wrote last year about the perils of letting others know your HIV-status. He tells the story of Bernadette (a pseudonym), a young woman who sells second-hand clothing at the Tié-Tié market in Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo:
Bernadette’s life changed when her friend divulged Bernadette’s HIV status. Her colleagues and clients from the market were informed that she is HIV-positive. Very few clients came to buy at Bernadette’s table. Her life became difficult, and she had difficulty to make ends meet.
Aurelie from the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville writes about the shock of discovering that she had HIV:
Initially, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I saw my life change instantly, and the thoughts kept multiplying in my mind.
She also writes that thanks to the support of her family and a non-profit organization she is leading a normal life.
To those newly infected or those who are tired of being alone, don't lose hope. Don't give up on love. It will come when you least expect it and when you need it the most.
Being HIV positive does not mean that you will be stripped of enjoyment because of discrimination. Mr. and Miss Red Ribbon is a charity event and fashion show organized annually by Nakuru Youth groups in Kenya. HIV-positive blogger Maureen, a member of the Rising Voices blogging project REPACTED was one of the contestants and she shares her experience:
I have been contesting since 2006 and have been enjoying every moment of the event because of one thing, effective reduction of stigma and discrimination. Mr. and Miss Red Ribbon brings together both affected and infected to celebrate beauty in a unique way. During the event audience appreciate beauty by seeing models but not the affected or the infected.
The Global Voices Google map of HIV-positive bloggers above highlights voices of HIV-positive bloggers and caretakers, and other citizen media related to HIV/AIDS. You can read more of these amazing stories by clicking links from that map.