Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Fighting AIDS through photography

Fighting AIDS through photography
Wendy Glauser & Edgar R. Batte
2005-10-26

Positive Lives, an international black-and-white photo exhibition currently on at the UMA Conference Hall, profiles HIV positive people in their most vulnerable moments. It is organised by Action Aid Uganda. You see a young South African woman, who is all shoulder blade, rolling over in her hospital bed a Zimbabwean mother carrying her grown son like a baby and a pierced American punk rocker swallowing his pills. But you don't feel as though you can pass judgment on any of them. Instead, it's as though they're judging you, saying, What if you were in my position?

In Mike Abrahm's, Stories of Eyes in India, the photos of HIV positive people's eyes follow you around the room, luring you in to read their testimonies. I had no choice in life, reads the caption of a photo of a Muslim woman's eyes, which are bordered by the material of a Burka. When I confronted my husband he committed suicide.

Other photos speak for themselves. Ugandan photographer James Akena shows a woman holding two one-year-old babies. They're kicking their feet and pulling on her collar, but her half-closed eyes look somewhere in the distance, as if waiting for someone to come and take her away. Matthias Mugisha shows the strain in a shop owner's arm as she leans out her door to pass a bag of cooking oil to a boy. Those who come do not want to touch me, the caption reads.

But not all the photos portray suffering. You also see HIV positive people throw their heads back in laughter, sway their hips to music, and join hands in solidarity. Aside from showing the social and emotional impact of Aids, the exhibition also aims to illuminate positive human responses to the world's crisis, according to its website, www.positivelives.org.

Meanhwile, last Friday Action Aid hosted a discussion at the same venue, to educate young people about HIV/Aids. The main speaker of the day and team leader of the positive lives campaign, Ms Beatrice Were is one of the people living positively and has used her life experience in fighting the scourge for the last fourteen years. The exhibition ends on November 10.(

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