Tag Archives: HIV/Aids

Went there, did it – wore the T-shirt!

So… I did it! After a lengthy discussion with some friends on the campaign, discrimination, human mortality, survival instinct, morality, responsibility and any and every other issue possibly connected to the social issue of stigma associated with HIV/AIDS , I headed valiantly to the City on Saturday to get hold of my HIV+ T-shirt, just as I planned. Like any good big sister, I brought my little one along for her general social education. NOT just so I could have company. Promise. The actual event started at least an hour and a half later than scheduled (that’s when I left for another engagement), and up until that point, I saw a small crowd of at least 100 people starting to assemble.

After making several inquiries, I finally spotted the t-shirt distribution point and raced over. I was issued stern directions: “Do NOT just come here and take a shirt and go! You are supPOSED to WEAR the SHIRT NOW, and STAY for the ralLY!” Well. There went any internal debate about whether I would actually wear it or not. Looking around at the numbers already wearing it, I figured I’d never have this much centralised support so now it is! My sis and I quickly donned the shirts. I think we looked a little too happy to have just been ‘labelled’ HIV+, but there was definitely a positive energy buzzing in the atmosphere. There was that mixed feeling of both trepidation and affirmation in following through with a decision to accept responsibility to be active agents for change in civic society.

Although I didn’t get the benefit of the on-stage portion of the rally since I had to leave, I felt really encouraged. I saw people there of all ages, all walks of life, representatives from community organisations. I didn’t feel as alone as I do on this issue as I often do in my own professional and social circles. The next level up, though, is to get the t-shirt into my regular wardrobe rotation, and not reserve it for socially-conscious events. I’m encouraged, but I’m going to be real with myself too. I can for sure say though that I’m already growing through this dialogue – both internal and external (see nation-wide comments here).

Change is possible and individual choice not only makes a difference – it’s the impetus.

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HIV + ….should it matter?

Photo by Anesta Henry, retrieved from http://www.nationnews.com

Would you wear this shirt? I’m eager to get my hands on one. Note, I didn’t say eager to wear one. The thought of being identified, even if superficially, as a person living with HIV/AIDS is not nearly a pleasant one. I get the feeling, though, that that’s exactly what Dr. Henrick Ellis, head of the local HIV/AIDS Commission, wants to happen. It definitely makes me think about what so many who do live with the disease face every day. It makes me wonder why WE make them carry this burden, in addition to their inescapable fight with the disease.

The HIV/AIDS Commission is launching a new campaign against the stigma persons living with HIV/AIDS continue to face in our conservative society where image and superficial talk supersede love and humanity. Harsh but true. The shirts read “HIV + ” on the front, while the back says “should it matter?” I love the idea. Imagine the effect it could have when persons are directly faced with that conflict – a sister, a daughter, a friend, a cute girl on the street and all the positive emotions these labels evoke, alongside the disgrace, shame, blame and disgust usually associated with persons living with HIV/AIDS. I hope it would make them consider that this disease does NOT discriminate. I hope it would make them consider that WE – YOU & I – should not discriminate either. The campaign launches on Saturday at 2pm in Jubilee Gardens, Bridgetown. I’m planning on being there and getting my hands on one of these shirts. (Is it shallow to hope they have baby-tees….?)

 

P.S.: If you are interested in empowering yourself to DO more in the fight against HIV/AIDS, click here for e-course materials Towards Universal Access: Young People in Action.


Citizens of Earth: Leah Marville and the LOVE Campaign

Love away the stigma. * Beauty with a purpose.

If you’re afflicted with the deprivation of not knowing who Leah Marville is, get caught up right quick. Barbados has this way of churning out the killer combo of beauty and brains like whoa.  From Barbados Fashion week to South African couture,  there’s no choice but to add Leah’s name to the growing list of Barbadian  models taking the International Fashion world by storm – Lene Hall, Sara Collins, Tennille Stoute, Ramon Dodson, Richard Elms, I could go on. De sun ain hot in Bim fuh nuttin!

While Leah is following a now illustrious path, she is no doubt already leaving footprints all her own. Chasing the title of Miss Barbados World, her spearheading of The Love Campaign perfectly captures the pageant’s theme of ‘Beauty with a Purpose’. Focusing on providing support to children in families affected by HIV/Aids, the campaign promotes the destigmatizing of those battling the illness and its consequent myriad of social and economic challenges.

Mine was the pleasure recently of a chat with Leah. Her drive and heartfelt passion were undeniably evident.  The philanthropy of celebrities and entertainers often tends to be a secondary effort – at the beginning of one’s career, the focus is “me-me-me”, then after amassing a certain amount of fame and/or wealth comes the thought to “give back”. Of note is that it is while Leah’s career – though already outstanding – is yet young, that her contribution towards the plight of others is  equally outstanding. She spoke of a compelling desire to heed the cries, whether loud or silent, of those in need. It is indeed a costly calling, requiring the investment of much time and focus. In addition to modelling, Leah currently works full-time (and often more) with South Central Entertainment. Then add to the pot her academic pursuits (she holds a degree in Law from the University of the West Indies) and her participation in the Miss Barbados World contest. When and how could she possibly be pulling off such an amazing campaign? Though admittedly sometimes sleep-deprived, she credits her continued success to her passion and the support and assistance of others who have caught the vision.

It is clear that the phrase ‘status quo’ holds little meaning for Leah: she is determined to continue to push limits – her own, the nation’s and the world’s – in efforts to meet the needs around us that are so evident, yet many of us have learned to ignore. I feel inspired. Reassured. Encouraged. Challenged to be a productive Citizen of Earth.

Thank you, Leah!