Kimberly Vrudny

Archive for the ‘30/30 Participants’ Category

Participants

In 30/30 Participants on April 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Participant 11

Thirty people in the United States, South Africa, Thailand, and Mexico shared their stories with the photographer to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. View the portraits and read the stories of those who participated.

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Participant 01

In 30/30 Participants, Open Arms of Minnesota, United States on August 12, 2010 at 8:15 am

“Participant 01” is a gifted musician whose love of poetry graces his journal entry. He quotes Kafka: “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

“When I put my hands on your body, on your flesh, I feel the history of that body. Not just the beginning of its forming in that distant lake but all the way beyond its ending. I feel the warmth and texture and simultaneously I see the flesh unwrap from the layers of fat and disappear. I see the fat disappearing from the muscle. I see the muscle disappearing from around the organ and detaching itself from the bones. I see the organ gradually fade into transparency leaving a gleaming skeleton gleaming like ivory that slowly resolves until it becomes dust. I am consumed in the sense of your weight the way that your flesh occupies me—momentary space the fullness of it beneath my palms. I am amazed at how perfectly your body fits into the curves of my hands. If I could attach our blood vessels so we could become each other I would. If I could attach our blood vessels in order to anchor you to the earth to this present time I would. If I could open your body and slip up inside your skin and look out your eyes and forever have my lips fused with yours I would. It makes me weep to feel the history of you and your flesh beneath my hands in a time of so much loss. It makes me weep to feel the movement of your flesh beneath my palms as you twist and turn over to one side to create a series of gestures to reach up around my neck to draw me nearer. All these moments will be lost in the tears in the rain.” —David Wojnarowicz, 1990

“There are no diseases. There is only ONE disease that manifests in different forms.” —O.Z.A. Hanish

“Every disease is a musical problem, every cure is a musical solution.” —Novalis

“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” —Kafka

“May I, composed . . .
of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.” —Auden

“From love comes grief; from grief
comes fear; one who is free from
love knows neither grief nor fear.” —verse 215 of Ohammapada

The light of God surrounds me, the love
of God unfolds me, the power of God
flows through me. Wherever I am, God is,
and all is well. —21 August 2004, Nagano

The cool rain falls silently,
Blinded by a bright bed of black-eyed Susans
I wonder if I’ve learned,
If I’ve changed, what pieces are missing still.
Can I find the strength
The mosaic to survive? —9 August 2005, Nagano


Participant 02

In 30/30 Participants, Open Arms of Minnesota, United States on August 12, 2010 at 8:00 am

"Participant 02" is engaged in humanitarian response to HIV/AIDS. She is at prayer, a collection of her favorite words in her journal.

Love. Envision. Imagine. Hesed. Illumine. Compassion. Wisdom. Justice. Purity. Unity. Precious. Sacred. Create. Discover. Beauty. Grow. Hope. Forgive. Gentle. Kind. Explore. Spirit. Believe. Laugh. Ubuntu. Peace. Safe. Sanctuary. Breathe. Rest. Inspire. Together. Community. Trust. Holy. Divine. Faith. Life. Wholeness. Charity. Touch. Flower. Embrace. Wonder. Delight. Home. Contemplate. Calm. Content. Curious. Prayer. Mindful. Solitude. Promise. Thankful. Memory. Truth. Ritual. Gift. Miracle. Image. Reconciliation. Meditate. Adore. Luxurious. Light. Shalom. Cherish. Thoughtful. Warm. Moment. Nurture. Console. Goodness. Beloved. Lovely. Simple. Refuge. Womb. Soul. Mystery. Ultimacy. Integrity. Joy. Courage. Tender. Companion. Garden. Tranquil. Service. Abundance. Breathtaking. Generous. Patience. Dream. Art. Virtue. Aspire. Friend. Play. Celebrate. Smile. Dance. Nestle. Think. Wish. Share. Honesty. Educate. Inquire. Help. Gratitude. Excellence. Remember. Capture. Yearn. Blessing. Path. Journey. Sincere. Always. Awe. Enjoy. Charm. Magic. Care. Reflect. Haven. Vision. Secure. Time. Pleasant. Being.


Participant 03

In 30/30 Participants, Open Arms of Minnesota, United States on August 12, 2010 at 7:45 am

Blinded by an infection, “Participant 03” is a public policy student who advocates for those living with disabilities. HIV has taught him about the beauty and fragility of life.

“I am so grateful and blessed for the richness that fills my life today.” That may seem like an odd statement to begin a reflection on how HIV/AIDS has affected my life over the past 20+ years, but to be absolutely honest with myself, it is a completely true statement. Oh sure, I could choose to focus on the misery and physical pain I experienced as I lived HIV/AIDS in the mid 1990s, and surely no one would blame me. But, they are not how I choose to “remember.” It does me little benefit to dwell on them today. Even as I now live as a total blind person, one more “gift” that HIV/AIDS presented me with, I would not be alive and in the throngs of wonderful opportunities had those experiences never happened.

I believe we each have incredible power to control how we choose to approach life, and how we choose to move ahead with that life. Although we may not have complete control over what happens in our lives, we certainly can control how we react to the experiences. To me, the beauty of the lives that have intertwined with mine in the name of HIV/AIDS, the beauty of those fragile relationships I am the recipient from because of HIV/AIDS and my perceived role as one who continues to live in spite of so very many others who did not get the same opportunity as I, gives me pause each and every time my inclination begins to take on a negative tone; instead, to me, the best way I can honor those who have gone before me and who died from HIV/AIDS, honor those who taught me humility, compassion, and dignity as they took their last breath, and honor the very meaning of life itself, is to move forward while being cognizant of the richness that does still fill my privileged life today.

Even amidst my loss of sight, I can see and feel that I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before me. It is therefore essential for me to move forward intentionally and purposefully, choosing to focus on the countless incredible opportunities ahead and thankful for the gifts I have been given all while being ever mindful and thankful for my past . . . for without my past, I would cease to be who I am today.

A Candle Lighting Prayer

O, Creator of Divine Light
Be upon us.
Gather from the Universe,
All the Elements needed
To create this Symbol
Of Your Divine Presence.
Let this Light Shine Brightly,
Here in this Sacred Space.
O, Creator of  Divine Light
Let this Light Shine Brightly
And Illuminate the Places of Darkness.
Let this Light Shine Brightly
Allow that which was Hidden
To be now Held.
Held by warmth,
Gentle Comfort,
Touching,
Caressing, with Peace and Harmony
The shadows All now Gone.
O, Divine Light,
Creator of the Universe,
Come upon us.
And Here, in this Sacred Space,
Be with us,
Be us,
Be!

Participant 04

In 30/30 Participants, J. L. Zwane Centre, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 7:30 am

“Participant 04” is a widow living in Guguletu who has opened her home to twelve orphaned and abandoned children. She wishes she could do more.

I live in one of the low socio-economic group areas where the large part of it is still informal settlements; where people live in shacks. This creates overcrowding and hygiene is not that much observed. In this area HIV and AIDS are rife. The government and some of the non-governmental structures are trying to educate people about prevention of HIV and AIDS treatment available for it—but it is still a problem because people are unwilling to disclose their status due to the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. Some people would rather go to sangomas (witchdoctors) for treatment and end up dying. Parents die leaving behind orphans some of [whom] are also infected. Some of these children are abandoned with none to take care of them, or would be left with an elderly lady who also needs to be taken care of. This is very pathetic. This is what touched my heart and I opened my home to such children. I am presently staying with children whom I take care of, to see to their needs and love them. I would do more if I had means and make a difference to my community.

Participant 05

In 30/30 Participants, J. L. Zwane Centre, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 7:15 am

“Participant 05” is a seven-year-old boy who struggles with meningitis, among other opportunistic infections. His mother writes about their challenges in her journal entry.

In 1992, after being involved in a car accident, I was diagnosed HIV-positive. I knew very little about HIV and I had no sign of being ill or of the struggle that la[id] ahead for me and my family. I was healthy and fit until 2001, after I had fallen pregnant with my youngest son. I had two children already, so I thought it was no big deal. After a difficult pregnancy, I gave birth to a baby boy, [who] was immediately diagnosed as HIV-positive. His CD4 count was zero, like myself, and the doctors predicted a very short life span for him, for he had TB at birth. Today I thank God, for he has celebrated his seventh birthday in July this year. In spite of being a very sick boy, he also goes to school when he can, and when you look at him some days, he looks and plays with other children like any seven year old. I try to make his life as normal as I can for in a house with lots of grandchildren and friends, he is the only one who is very sickly and sometimes does not go to school for long periods at a time, and misses a lot of school work, but he at least gets some kind of education. He has been put on the second line of ARVs, because of his very high viral load and very low CD4 count. At the moment, he is suffering from slow meningitis, and I am suffering from cancer and four other opportunistic diseases. Through all our past & future struggles, I thank God for the strong support system I have at my church & support group that I joined about four years ago. They are with me every step of the way & it makes my life a whole lot better than it could have been. I am also an HIV & AIDS activist, for I know that HIV [and AIDS] are maintainable, if you take your [medicine], and abstain from sex or protect yourself, and surround yourself with family and friends as a strong support system. Aluta continua!, the struggle continues. . . .

Participant 06

In 30/30 Participants, J. L. Zwane Centre, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 7:00 am

“Participant 06” discusses helplessness in the face of the pandemic. She has opened her home to her “daughter” and “grandson,” both living with HIV.

I do not know much about HIV, but I do know that it is a struggle that I won’t wish on anybody, as a mother staying with my positive daughter and grandson. [T]o see them struggling with this terrible disease makes me feel very helpless and heartbroken. When she first told me her status I was very worried, for I thought they would die soon, but after watching their struggle for many years, I do not know which is better, death or the struggle. I am thankful that they are still alive, but not being able to know how to help makes me feel like an outsider, watching my children die day after day.

My helplessness makes me very thankful to God for the J. L. Zwane Support Group and Centre, for, if it was not for their daily help I do not know where we as a family would be. They are helping my daughter with everything and by helping her, they help my whole family. My own congregation is helpless in this epidemic, they can only pray when they happen to get into contact with us. My health is also going down faster, because of my anguish when my children are sick. I also have the support of the J. L. Zwane members [who] are my neighbours. May God bless them richly for their help to us. May he also give them strength, patience, and wisdom to keep up the good work in our community.

Participant 07

In 30/30 Participants, Scalabrini Center, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 6:45 am

“Participant 07” is a refugee from the DRC. She addresses in her journal issues of promiscuity, fidelity, grief, and care of orphans, advising men to be faithful to their wives.

I am a 56 year old widow. I tested HIV positive in 2005. My CD4 count was 134. [At t]hat time I had TB. I did not know that I had the virus before because I was fit and healthy. I know I contracted the virus from my late husband who was a drunkard and very promisc[u]ous. I was a very faithful wife and to this day I never slept with any other man. I would like to urge men out in the world to be faithful [and] to stick to one partner. At the present moment I am looking after three grandchildren orphaned due to AIDS. My daughter married a man who was also promisc[u]ous and she contracted the virus and they both died at an early age. The husband was 33 years old and the wife was 26 years old. People should be educated about these things. They should be made aware.

Participant 08

In 30/30 Participants, Scalabrini Center, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 6:30 am

“Participant 08” shares how, even though she has lost trust in her promiscuous husband, she has learned to live positively with HIV. They are estranged but not yet divorced.

I discovered I was HIV positive six years ago. I was numb with shock and disbelief. “WHY. . . . HOW. . . . COULD THIS BE HAPPENING TO ME.” After the shock and disbelief I started wondering if my two sons were also HIV positive. I got flash backs of the times they ha[d] been ill and tried to figure out if perhaps they were HIV negative. Routine tests proved that they are negative. “GLORY TO GOD.” The love and trust I had for my husband vanished overnight. His denial left a bitter taste in my mouth. We are estranged. He does not want a divorce yet. He refused to use protection during sex. I made a choice five years ago to move out with my children. . . . I got a job. . . . [Now I] lead a healthy and fulfilling life. . . . and have been on ARVs for five years now. I have forgiven my husband but I can never get back together with him as the love and trust is gone.

Participant 09

In 30/30 Participants, Scalabrini Center, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 6:15 am

“Participant 09” migrated to Cape Town as a refugee from Zimbabwe half a decade ago, after losing three of his children to HIV/AIDS. He believes stigma destroyed their lives.

Way back I could not believe that the story of HIV/AIDS was real because I had not seen anyone who was a victim of it. I came to know this when I got married and lost my loving kids, one after another, [within] 3 months. I believe it was of stigma—that’s why my first two kids just died and we could not get tested for this HIV/AIDS. I came to know of this problem when my third kid was ill and tried to save her life but she died. The doctors told us that she was HIV positive, so we got tested and the truth of HIV/AIDS was real. [T]hen I got tested and accepted the results and came to understand what it means to live with HIV/AIDS. This came about after going for counselling. Now I understand what it means to be with the HIV/AIDS and [to] be able to live positively. To all people who cannot believe if they should be tested and [find] their status—it is just good to know and live positively and that [it is] not the end of life. It has not been my wish to [lose] my three kids but because of stigma HIV/AIDS took advantage and destroyed their lives. My life still goes well though [I am a] refugee.

Participant 10

In 30/30 Participants, Inzame Zabantu, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 6:00 am

“Participant 10” was tested for HIV only recently, and has disclosed his status to his wife, but not to his daughters. He advises others to protect themselves, and to be tested.

I’m staying in Brown’s Farm (in Siyahlal, an informal settlement). I’m married. I have two children. The first is 15 years old; the second is 8. They are both girls. I was only diagnosed this August [2009]. The first sign was shingles. I went to a private doctor. He said I must come to the clinic to check for HIV. I am still working. The children are in school. I have disclosed my status to my wife. She has been tested, and so far she is negative. The three-month window for retesting is almost here. My wife and I have agreed to use protection to prevent her from becoming infected. At the present moment, only my wife and I know. Even our daughters do not know. They are still too young. . . . Before I knew my status, I was drinking a lot. Since I got the news, I’ve stopped. I don’t know how I got HIV because I am an honest person. I’ve looked after my wife. My only advice is to use protection, and to share any information you have with your spouse. You must trust no one. You must protect yourself.

Participant 11

In 30/30 Participants, Inzame Zabantu, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 5:45 am

“Participant 11” describes his situation in Samara, a section of Philippi, where access to food and water are scarce. He is especially concerned about the safety of his daughter.

I am from the Eastern Cape. I’ve been here for four years now; I came to Cape Town in 2005 looking for work. I was employed, and was on treatment in 2005. And I was married. But she was very sick—vomiting, with diarrhea. Her entire body was aching. She was unable to walk. She was not on medication; she did not go to the clinic to see what the problem was. Instead, we went to our church to ask the pastors to pray for her to be healed. But she passed away earlier this year—in June. We have a daughter who will be thirteen years old this year (grade 6). She is staying with me. We are alone now. This is the second month I have been unemployed because of poor health. I was losing my eyesight; I have gone completely blind now. Also, I had terrible pains on the right side of my chest. I went to the doctor to see if it was TB. I am still waiting for the results. I am underweight. We have very little food to eat, and no money. We are staying here in a very poor community. We live in a shack. More than 15,000 people share one tap of water here. Four families share every toilet. The situation is very difficult. The government distributes porridge to try to avoid a famine. When they are able, our neighbors sometimes give us their leftovers. Because I am HIV+, I may qualify for a grant to help subsidize us. We are waiting for the CD4 count to come back to know whether I qualify. But it is taking so long. It is terrible for my daughter. She goes to school hungry. I am worried about her. I’m worried she will be abused—that when I’m gone, people will offer her bread to sleep with her. We have no one to look after us. Can anyone help us? Please, can anyone help us?

Participant 12

In 30/30 Participants, Inzame Zabantu, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 5:30 am

“Participant 12” works as a nurse in the communities most affected by HIV/AIDS. She speaks of the hope clinics like Inzame Zabantu provide patients accessing its services.

There is nothing as fulfilling as seeing someone smile having arrived at the clinic groaning with pain. I have seen people turn their lives around, walking through the entrance of the clinic on their feet having spent [a] few months of their lives in a wheelchair. Running an HIV/AIDS clinic before the roll out of the [a]ntiretrovirals was depressing but now that the [a]ntiretrovirals are available one is able to say that indeed there is life after an HIV-positive diagnosis. People who were once lost in hopelessness, lost in despair, are now full of hope and that is exactly what keeps them going and getting better day after day.

Participant 13

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Wola Nani on August 12, 2010 at 5:15 am

"Participant 13" is a member of the team at Wola Nani. She reflects on the changes she has seen in the lives of those now living positively because of the work of this organization.

I’ve been working with Wola Nani since 1994. We were working then only with HIV+ women. It was very difficult at that time because of stigma. The clients we saw—they didn’t want to attend the clinics. We used to do home visits: helping the people, washing them, referring them to the hospital. In 2002, most people broke the silence. We were assisting them to live positively in support groups. As a result, most of our clients were talking about HIV and spreading the word about the work of Wola Nani. Wola Nani planned to enter the townships, and played a big role in our communities—[in] Khayelitsha, Philippi, Guguletu, Mfuleni, and Nyanga, through support groups from these areas and in the IDC [Infectious Disease Clinic] at the Red Cross Hospital. So if I compare 1994-2000, and 2000 until now, I feel like Wola Nani changed a lot for the clients. They make paper maché bowls and bead work. Wola Nani trained them, and now they can be with their families, and do something to earn money. Most of our clients manage their HIV well. We’ve started a support group for children. Our staff taught even the children how to live positively, and to be confident about speaking about HIV. I’m very proud of the work we are doing at Wola Nani.

Participant 14

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Wola Nani on August 12, 2010 at 5:00 am

“Participant 14” is a counselor for Wola Nani. She informs HIV-positive expectant mothers how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

I was diagnosed [in] 1990 in Cape Town. I found [out after] giving birth. [Then I] got sick with TB. By 1998, I treated it. So [during] all [those] years there was no medication. By 2003 I started the ARVs so that I [could] be healed. Because I was [at] Stage IV and my CD4 count was 175, I discover[ed] that I had pneumonia. By 2004, [I treated it.]. By 2005 I develop[ed] asthma, so I [have been] using [Asthavent] to make it better. I [joined] Wola Nani in 1998 at the support group whereby I get very strong and I [learned] that I . . . [am not] alone living positive. I started to do bead craft [in] that year. By 2000 I started to train the other[s in] doing craft[work]. By 2007 I started to work as a counselor at Wola Nani. [I have been conducting] the program of mother to child transmission. There I’m telling mothers to prevent their children [from becoming infected] by doing HIV test[s] when they are pregnant. When they [find] out that they [are] HIV positive there is a treatment that they get during [their] seventh month [of] pregnancy. They get dual therapy but if their CD4 count is less than 250 they go on ARVs to protect their babies. [I also teach them] about feeding options [that are] their choice: breast or formula feed[ing].

Participant 15

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Wola Nani on August 12, 2010 at 4:45 am
15Portrait16x16

“Participant 15” writes about her own quest to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and about how she works to empower others to do the same through Wola Nani.

I [was] born in [the] Eastern Cape. [In] 1999 [I] tested for HIV. [I t]ested positive. Not sick. Just [was] curious to know. Then [I planned] to have a child. 2001 get pregnant. Was hungry [to] prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) because I need to prevent my child from HIV. I [read a] book [about] PMTCT. Then my child tested when he was nine month[s] old. He was born [in] 2002. Tested negative because of PMTCT. [I w]as in need of support. I got lot[s] of support from my family. My CD4 count was 870 in 2003. Also attending clinic for myself. Because I was hungry [for] informationI [I] started to join a support group where I met others [where we could] also share our stories. Then 2003 NGO FAMSA [sent] me for intensive counselling course. Also 2003 started to join Wola Nani as a client. Attend support group each and every weekday. [We shared]  our ideas with others. Then 2004 I started to work for Wola Nani as a home carer. [This i]s whereby we visit sick clients [and] also check their meds (those [who] are using [them]). Also deliver food parcel[s]. Then 2005 January I have been promoted to work as a counsellor at Red Cross Hospital [through] information I have because I was . . . involved with TAC, ARK, and FAMSA [who] provide[d] me with training. At Red Cross I’m working as a counsellor doing pre, post-test counselling, adherence counselling. [I’m] also helping [with] interpreting for doctors. To work in a HIV facility, it empower[s] me a lot because I was helping clients to deal with stigma, denial, discrimination. Also [I am helping] them adhere to their treatment. Challenges that we [face include] denial [and] also disclosure which lead to adherence problem[s] but we deal with [these by] giving them information.

Participant 16

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Yabonga on August 12, 2010 at 4:30 am

“Participant 16” writes about the painful realities of working with children living with HIV/AIDS. She has served Yabonga as a peer educator and counselor.

I started knowing [my HIV+ status] in 2002 while I was sick. I had TB and it was for the second time and my doctor decided/advised that I should do an HIV test. It was something new for me and I did it. Unfortunately I tested +. I just thought it was the end of life for me but [the] one thing [that] kept me going was my child. I prayed to God that he must not take me because my son is still young. Apart from that was to join Yabonga support group in 2002 at M/Goniwe Clinic in Khayelitsha. The lady who was a team leader there gave me all the support that I needed and I felt very strong after that. In 2005 I was so lucky to be trained as a peer educator at Yabonga. Then [in] 2006 I started working and fortunately for me I was a youth counselor. I had to deal with children who are infected with HIV/AIDS and affected. Some of them are orphans through HIV/AIDS. Finally it started as something good for me because I was working, but later I discovered that, this is worse to deal with children’s challenges. I worked in different places where Yabonga is having containers at the clinics. [Shipping containers are used as freestanding buildings in many township communities.] I remember while I was in Kraai-Fontein [in] 2007, there were two children. [O]ne of them is HIV+ and their mom didn’t have any means to provide for them but because in our OVC programme we give these children all the support [they required] including [a school] uniform and some food, and they come to our centers after school for food as we have community moms to cook for them. These community mothers are our clients who volunteer themselves to cook for the children after school. The food and everything is from Yabonga and they just open their homes for our children. But with a [stipend]. So for some children it is a great priviledge for them to be part of Yabonga at least to have them all to get the support they need. Some of these children become infected, so we have to deal with these problems but we refer them to [relevant] places for counselling. There is a boy in Gugulethu who touched me. He is HIV+ and is always sick. He is [in and out of the] hospital. I was so worried when the doctors said they are going to stop him from taking ARVs because he doesn’t improve, but through our prayers, I again heard that there is doctor who said he wants to monitor him and he is not stopping medication. I think [his] story is touching everybody because he is really a fighter. That is not something nice. People might think we are happy because we have accepted our statuses and our families do, but what about the fact that [we are] going to be on medication for the rest of [our lives]? [the s]truggle continues

Participant 17

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Yabonga on August 12, 2010 at 4:15 am

“Participant 17” writes about how the Institute for the Healing of Memories conducts retreats to help caregivers cope with the trauma of HIV/AIDS.

I live in a community [where] people are confronted by the reality of HIV&AIDS on a daily basis. People choose to respond to the pandemic in many different ways. [The Institute for the] Healing of Memories and HIV/AIDS is about creating a safe space for those infected and affected by [this disease]. Many people infected and affected by HIV&AIDS continue to experience rejection and isolation. This [leaves] people with a lot of feelings, [like] pain and disappointment. [The Institute for the] Healing of Memories create[s] an opportunity for people to deal with the negative feeling[s] they have because of how we respond to those living with the [disease]. People are struggling with feeling[s] of anger because of a partner who infected them with the [disease], because of being isolated by family and friends. [Facilitators at the Institute for the] Healing of Memories listen to the pain of those who have been affected and infected to help people journey with strength and believe that they are not alone.

Participant 18

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Yabonga on August 12, 2010 at 4:00 am

“Participant 18” is a peer educator for Yabonga, and credits the organization for teaching him to live positively. He has turned his life around, and is studying for a bachelor’s degree.

I [was] born in 1968 [on] the 19th September in the North West Province of South Africa. I went to school in 1975 at Makgori Primary in Makgori Village. We then relocated to Tshidilamolomo in 1977. I continued with my education until 1985 when I pass[ed] my STD8 [standard eight, or eighth grade]. I couldn’t continue with my studies due to [a] lack of finance[s]. I stayed at home doing odd jobs to earn some income. [In] 1991 I went back to continue with my studies and I completed my matric. In 1994 I was employed as a temporary teacher. When my contract was terminated in 1997 I went back to do my odd jobs to earn some income. In 1999 I tested HIV-positive but didn’t believe in HIV/AIDS. I then moved to Cape Town where my brother is staying. I continued working in building construction as I liked working with sand and stones. In 2004 I went to do VCT [voluntary testing and counseling] again, hoping to be negative but FORTUNATELY I tested HIV-positive. I couldn’t do anything about it but to accept the results. I met the Yabonga HIV/AIDS Peer Educators who encouraged me to accept and forget about where I [got] the virus [from] but to continue living my life but differently. That’s changing my lifestyle. Living positively with positive mind. I joined the support group and that is where my future with Yabonga started. I went for an interview in 2006 at Yabonga and I went through. [In] 2007 I was trained to be an HIV/AIDS Peer Educator. I could speak openly [about] my status to everybody including my family and friends. A person living with HIV is a normal person. It was also my step forward. I am presently a student at the University of South Africa and am going to be graduating in years to come. Every person can fulfil his dreams living with the HI Virus. I am now taking my ARV medication and keeping well everyday. Thank you Yabonga for having me as [your] employee.

Participant 19

In 30/30 Participants, Ikamva Labantu, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 3:45 am

“Participant 19” cares for an HIV-positive daughter and her children, sharing openly their struggles with alcohol and drug addiction.

I am a 67 year old mother of 2. [My] daughter is 44 and son is 42. In 1994 my first-born daughter was diagnosed HIV-positive. She grew up in the Eastern Cape [and was] brought up by my mother. At first I blamed myself [for] not bringing her up myself. But later I accompanied her to the clinic for counselling. It took time for her to accept [her status]. She kept saying it can’t be her blood. I kept taking her to different places to be tested. At last she believed it and kept it [a] secret at home. I tried to go to workshops to learn more about this disease. It is very difficult to live with my child. She turned to drinking and gets very aggressive when drunk which is almost every day. She has two sons. I brought them up myself and put them through education. They are both working but [are] affected by the situation. The younger one is on drugs. They all stay with me. I am only sane by the grace of God. We pray together most of the time. I support them with my pension. I struggle to have [her take her treatments]. It is a miracle she lasted so long taking medication and alcohol. I praise the Lord for all blessings. I[t] affects me [for] whenever she is in pain she comes to me and I can feel the pain. The big blow was this year when I phoned a place she went to for chest X-rays. I was told she has no lungs. I nearly died. All in all it is not easy to nurse someone who sometimes blames me for wanting her to die. I pay for funeral policies. She doesn’t get [a] disability grant because she drinks. It is depressing. I just trust in the Lord to make me strong when the time comes.

Participant 20

In 30/30 Participants, Ikamva Labantu, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 3:30 am

“Participant 20” raised her grandchildren when her daughter passed away. She advises people to get tested in order to prevent further spread of the virus.

I am 59 years old. I live in the township[s] of Cape Town. Ten years ago I discovered that my 27-year-old daughter was infected with HIV. I was very shocked, not knowing what to do, and at that time I was still in the dark about HIV. I knew my daughter was dying. I didn’t know what to do, but I manage[d] to share with my neighbours, my church collegues, and my fellow workers. They supported me with prayers. She became very sick and there was no help of ARVs at that moment. There was nothing I could do but to wait and pray. 

Apparently, I came to Ikamva Labantu for help, and the only help I could get at that time was support. She was fully blown and after a long time she died. I was in a trauma of accepting the death of my daughter and [taking] care of her two children, a boy of 9 and a girl of 3 at that time. I was open about it although I was depressed, but through [counseling] I survived.

I raised those two children out of my income. Now the boy has turned 20 and the girl is 14. They are very beautiful and fortunately they are not infected.

I would like everyone to accept the d[i]sease, but to try and prevent it. If you happen to be HIV[-positive], it is not the end of the world. There is help at the clinics. [I]f you don’t know your status go and get tested before it’s too late.

Participant 21

In 30/30 Participants, Ikamva Labantu, South Africa on August 12, 2010 at 3:15 am

“Participant 21” lost two daughters to HIV, and cares for their children. A third daughter is also HIV-positive. She encourages parents to accept their children.

I am a 61 year old who lost children, 2 daughters: 1 in 1999 and 1 in 2005. And [they both] were infected by HIV. The eldest daughter left me with 2 children who are now at the age of 25 and a boy of 13. Fortunately they are not infected. The second daughter died in 2005. [She] also left 2 children, a boy of 20 and another boy who is now 4 years. I struggle to raise them, but with the help of Ikamva I do survive. I was very hurt, but what can I do? The d[i]sease is here and everybody must accept the fact that it is here. I miss my daughter. I pray to God that I can live longer to take care of the little ones, because I am the only hope for them.

I have [a] third daughter who is 31. [S]he is also infected. I sometimes think that I am cursed, but again I know that is not the fact. It is just that we must be careful, and try [to] educate our children about HIV. To the parents out there, I would like to send a message: Accept your children and support them. They need you as a parent to give them hope.

I would like to plea to everybody: let us hold hands as parents and support one another in this pandemic. We have become carers and I support them out of my little pension. Its not enough but I survive.

Participant 22

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Treatment Action Campaign on August 12, 2010 at 3:00 am

“Participant 22” is a treatment literacy trainer at the TAC offices in Khayelitsha. After trusting traditional healers to cure him, he joined TAC to help get the truth out.

I was born in the Eastern Cape, [in a p]lace called Sterkspruit in the former Tran[s]kie. Then I came to Cape Town in 1990. I have two children girl & boy. She is 8 years and the boy is 2 years old. In 2004 I was diagnosed with HIV on the 7 of August because I was very sick. [I had] shingles, [diarrhea], skin problem[s]. The nurses d[e]cided that I should do VCT [voluntary counseling and testing]. The result came back positive and my CD4 count was 34. I couldn’t believe when they told me that I am HIV positive. I then did not want to go to the clinic as we believe in traditional medicine most of us. I went to Free State where I met the traditional doctor who claim[ed] that he [could] treat & cure HIV & AIDS but I found out that I was not getting better. Instead things were becoming wors[e]. I came back to Cape Town very sick. CD4 of 9. The doctors suggested that I should start ARVs imm[e]diately. I started ARVs on the 8th of March 2005—but I had lots of side effects like [lipodystrophy], peripheral neuropathy, vomiting. But I am happ[i]ly married but my wife is still HIV negative because we take [pre]caution[s] or use condom[s] everytime we [have] sex. In 2007 I did spermwash cause I wanted a child. Now my 2 year old son is also HIV negative. My message is that living with HIV & AIDS is not the end of the world. I make sure that I protect my partner and adhere to my treatment correctly. I am a treatment literacy trainer in Khayelitsha. Now my CD4 count is 388 & the viral load is undetectable.


Participant 23

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Treatment Action Campaign on August 12, 2010 at 2:45 am

Among other roles, “Participant 23” works as a TB coordinator for TAC. More than anything, she wishes to be a healthy mother to a healthy baby.

Originally I am from Eastern [Cape] from the place called Butterworth. I was diagnosed HIV+ in 2002 when I was having TB of the pulm for the second time. At that [time] my CD4 was 39, and I had to start ARVs. I started ARVs on 13 of April in 2002. Two months after my CD4 was 90. I felt good. In 2004 towards the end I decided to get pregnant because my CD4 was very high at 880. My doctor advi[s]ed me to do the papsmear and CD4 and viral load for my pregnancy. I was referred to Hanover Park. That [is where] I delivered an HIV negative boy from the weight on 4.2 kg [9.25 lbs.]. I was working at the hospice in 2003 up to 2005. It’s where I’ve noticed that I have to work closely with HIV client[s] to give them the education and information that the community need[s] outside. In terms of stigma and discrimination I didn’t experience anything. I experienced lots of side effect because AZT, 3TC, Effavirenz. When I decided to get pregnant & was [switched] from Effavirenz to Nevirapine. Currently I am working for TAC since 2006 for the integration of TB and HIV clinic as a TB coordinator. I am good, healthy and my CD4 is 940. I want to s[t]ay a healthy mom to [a] healthy baby. Let’s come together and fight this epidemic. Alluta || continua || Amandla

Participant 24

In 30/30 Participants, South Africa, Treatment Action Campaign on August 12, 2010 at 2:30 am

"Participant 24" goes to clinics for TAC to share information about how to prevent HIV. She believes the South African constitution secures the "right to adequate healthcare."

Originally I am from Eastern [Cape] in the place called Carth-cart. I am 46 years of age. I started to know about my status in 1999. In 2001, I started my ARVs Effavirenz, AZT, 3TC. I had experienced asthma and I had TB and asthma. I joined TAC in 2000 as an activist. Now I am doing Prevention Treatment Literacy at the clinics and I joined the P-WA sector within TAC. Also I [am] participating at the women’s sectors as a chairperson. I know how to challenge the denialists of HIV. As [our] constitution says, “We have a right to adequate healthcare.” I know HIV treatment literacy and [challenge] the homophobia in our community. I am doing workshops, education within the community. To be an activist—it means a lot to me. Currently my CD4 is 775, but I started ARVs when my CD4 was 179. My concern is only asthma. I don’t worry about HIV. Alluta Continua!! Amandla.

Participant 25

In 30/30 Participants, New Life Center Foundation, Thailand on August 12, 2010 at 2:29 am

"Participant 25," now seventeen years old, was sent away from home at the age of eleven to work in a restaurant. The owners arranged for her to meet several "customers" daily.

When I finished the third grade, I did not think I would meet with the issues that I faced next but shouldn’t have. But when we have passed a certain stage, we shouldn’t destroy ourselves. We are bearing the consequences of what we have done.

Sometimes I think of having HIV, and I think that nobody will love me. And sometimes when I see others enjoying their lives while I am suffering in my life with the virus, [I am sad because] I should not have it. Sometimes it also causes me to think back to the past. It gives me an experience [to say] that we do not have to work in those kinds of jobs again. There are many other people who are suffering more than me, and they are not going into despair about the problems they are encountering.

When we come to a safe place, it gives us happiness and joy. I want to tell everybody that is like me that I wish they did not have to go through this. Please obey your parents. If [girls] want to work, [I want to tell them to] find appropriate work for their age, and to find work that is legal. Don’t think that all work is good work. It is not true. It might not be suitable or appropriate [what people are asking you to do]. I don’t want any woman to do the work that I have done.

I have had this experience. I want to share this with people who have not done this work in the past. I cannot change what happened that gave me the virus. The only thing that I can do is to look after my health and to exercise regularly.

I am concerned about women because we have the same hearts.

Participant 26

In 30/30 Participants, New Life Center Foundation, Thailand on August 12, 2010 at 2:28 am

"Participant 26" is a graduate of the New Life Center Foundation. She hopes to protect her daughter from the trafficking to which she was vulnerable.

I remember the Lahu New Year’s celebrations when I was little. It was so much fun. It was the only time of year that we had new clothes made and we enjoyed showing off our clothes with our friends. I remember playing games in the village with the other kids, catching fish and swimming in the rivers. It was so much fun.

I am interested in the well-being and development of my daughter. If I was well, I’d be able to work and earn more money for my daughter. But I can’t really do that. But my main interest, the thing that is most important to me, is my daughter.

I’d like the broader public to understand how vulnerable young women are, to being trafficked and becoming HIV+. Becoming aware of exploitation and AIDS after the fact is too late. You must have awareness beforehand. Why do young women believe the people who lure us into these types of places? Why do we believe others so easily? You must not be so vulnerable, so easily tricked (like I was).

My hope for my future is that I’ll live long enough to see my grandchildren. I hope and pray that we can find a medicine that allows me to live for many, many years, so that I can see my grandchildren. Right now, I don’t know how long I’ll live, but please help find medicines that will keep me alive. This would be a good thing.

Participant 27

In 30/30 Participants, New Life Center Foundation, Thailand on August 12, 2010 at 2:27 am

"Participant 27" has been traumatized by the experiences that ultimately brought her to the New Life Center Foundation. She is charting a course free from exploitation.

When I was a little girl, I loved to go fishing with my big sister. This actually is my happiest memory, because I was living in the forest [at the time]. There was a river and I loved the environment with fresh air and clear skies. Even though during my childhood I did not get to eat delicious food—and even went without meals sometimes—I was so happy because I was with my family—my father, my mother, and my big sister. In terms of my interests . . . I like to play the guitar. I like to look after the fish (in the fish pond), and plant trees and flowers—especially orchids. I like orchids so much because they have beautiful fragrance and beautiful colors. In terms of the things important in my life . . . my relationship with God is important to me. God has provided me with a place to live, food to eat, and medicine to care for me. Also, what is important is that God is healing my heart and making me stronger.

I’d like to tell tribal women in northern Thailand to have awareness, to have knowledge and not be so easily manipulated. Because in today’s society, [there are] many areas in which you can be duped or tricked. If you believe people too easily you might be tricked easily, into many different things.

I want to recover fully from this disease. I dream that one day there will be medicine to heal me. I place my hope (and trust) in God because if that day could truly come, I’d like to have a complete family.

Participant 28

In 30/30 Participants, Mexico, OMIECH on August 12, 2010 at 2:15 am

"Participant 28" is a traditional healer at OMIECH. He believes he has successfully treated people living with HIV, but keeps the treatment a secret due to fears of biopiracy.

I have taken care of three people in the community: San Antonio Naranjal [Orange Grove], in the Municipality of Simojovel, Chiapas, that are infected with AIDS. I treated them with medicinal plants for 10 days or up to a year. [The length of treatment depended upon] how they reacted to the medicine. In this way, I verifiably cured them. As to which plant I used, I will tell no one, for this remains among us, since it is a secret among indigenous doctors, so that later on we [are able to] retain the authority to patent it, as the case “Pozol y Frijoles Rojos” [the case of “boiled barley and red beans”] already demonstrates. I knew that a person in the city of Guadalajara patented Tepezcouite, that is, a plant that serves [to treat] the burns of the skin. Then, an announcement followed that our plants served their needs, so they stole them from us and patented them. [Once they are patented,] we no longer have them to use.

I have said to them also in the United States, in Arizona, where I have visited, that if they already patented our pozol, this means that it is no longer ours. For us rural folk, pozol is our only food, and already they took it away from us. Our pozol, that is made from corn, is, for us, sacred.

When one knows the illness and its symptoms, one can apply medicine by means of the plants. I am old, but I do not need to go for a [doctor’s] analysis, because I know the plants than can cure me.

AIDS spreads because there are many women who are sold to be with men. But also the infected males transmit that illness to their spouses or to other people. That is very serious, because sadly they do not take care of themselves.

I have seen that there are people who have been infected—they do not disclose [their status] to the public, because they are afraid to be rejected, or mistreated by the community, friends, and family. [Their status] remains a secret. Other times, what is even more worrying, is if a man is infected who wants to have sexual relations with his spouse, but he tells her nothing, the consequence is that he infects his spouse. And this is also very serious. More should be communicated to couples to prevent the illness. This is not only the case with AIDS, but also with other contagious viruses.

In another case, I encountered patients who came from Germany. They came to visit us at OMIECH. I also treated them with medicinal plants, because they suffered from infections, one with syphilis and the other with AIDS. They told me that during the treatment, they functioned well. Before, they burned and itched a lot. After two months of treatment, they went on living. This means that we can cure illnesses by means of our herbs.

Participant 29

In 30/30 Participants, Mexico, OMIECH on August 12, 2010 at 2:10 am

"Participant 29" is a Tzeltal midwife, who shares what is known about HIV/AIDS in her indigenous community. She emphasizes an ethic of treating all people respectfully.

I have taken care of three people in the community: San Antonio Naranjal [Orange Grove], in the Municipality of Simojovel, Chiapas, that are infected with AIDS. I treated them with medicinal plants for 10 days or up to a year. [The length of treatment depended upon] how they reacted to the medicine. In this way, I verifiably cured them. As to which plant I used, I will tell no one, for this remains among us, since it is a secret among indigenous doctors, so that later on we [are able to] retain the authority to patent it, as the case “Pozol y Frijoles Rojos” [the case of “boiled barley and red beans”] already demonstrates. I knew that a person in the city of Guadalajara patented Tepezcouite, that is, a plant that serves [to treat] the burns of the skin. Then, an announcement followed that our plants served their needs, so they stole them from us and patented them. [Once they are patented,] we no longer have them to use.

I have said to them also in the United States, in Arizona, where I have visited, that if they already patented our pozol, this means that it is no longer ours. For us rural folk, pozol is our only food, and already they took it away from us. Our pozol, that is made from corn, is, for us, sacred.

When one knows the illness and its symptoms, one can apply medicine by means of the plants. I am old, but I do not need to go for a [doctor’s] analysis, because I know the plants than can cure me.

AIDS spreads because there are many women who are sold to be with men. But also the infected males transmit that illness to their spouses or to other people. That is very serious, because sadly they do not take care of themselves.

I have seen that there are people who have been infected—they do not disclose [their status] to the public, because they are afraid to be rejected, or mistreated by the community, friends, and family. [Their status] remains a secret. Other times, what is even more worrying, is if a man is infected who wants to have sexual relations with his spouse, but he tells her nothing, the consequence is that he infects his spouse. And this is also very serious. More should be communicated to couples to prevent the illness. This is not only the case with AIDS, but also with other contagious viruses.

In another case, I encountered patients who came from Germany. They came to visit us at OMIECH. I also treated them with medicinal plants, because they suffered from infections, one with syphilis and the other with AIDS. They told me that during the treatment, they functioned well. Before, they burned and itched a lot. After two months of treatment, they went on living. This means that we can cure illnesses by means of our herbs.

Participant 30

In 30/30 Participants, Mexico, OMIECH on August 12, 2010 at 2:00 am

"Participant 30" is a health promoter working with indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico, who shares in her journal some Mayan perceptions of HIV/AIDS.

I will talk about my experience with AIDS, working with women in traditional Indian medicine.

In communities where there is an AIDS infection, or an illness, [the diagnosis] is not clear. What is AIDS? [in Tzotzil] People only speak of “potz lomal chamel,” which is found in bed, so to speak. (For example, when someone invites us to go swimming in the river, we encounter the spirit of disease.) For diagnosis, it is necessary to ask: How did we encounter it? When did it come? What symptoms do we have? When did they start? Traditional doctors make the diagnosis by [reading] the blood, whereas the doctors at the hospitals make the diagnosis by means of special machines. “Potz lomal chamel” is not the same as AIDS, but it also causes the body to weaken. Sexually transmitted diseases are complicated. And so this is presented as AIDS.

When men and women go outside of their communities, and migrate, they spread the illness when they return, infecting their wives or husbands. So grows the seed.

The AIDS community is called [again in Tzotzil] “veel chamel” because it is something that eats you from the inside. It is difficult to speak of AIDS, due to grief, prejudice, customs, and because you must not speak publicly about the private parts of men and women (the penis and the vagina).

When we speak of AIDS, we speak about how to prevent it by using medicinal plants. People who are sick, only they know in their hearts [that they have AIDS]. They do not speak of it due to grief [and] fear. It is not made public—only the one who tested [the blood], only the doctor knows. It is not God’s punishment! On the contrary, lack of self care is bad. We are to protect the body and to prevent illness, and to treat the body. God has given us medicines and plants, which we respect. We listen to those who know (doctors and midwives) that it is the devil’s work simply to have sex with anyone. Furthermore, there is no communication between the young, who do not understand advice and who do not care to prevent diseases. So there are herbs that we can use, but we must not condemn people, for it is most important to prevent discrimination among the population. There are some herbs that we take but because of a lack of economic resources, they have not been researched to show their effectiveness and thereby help to prevent and cure AIDS in the population.