Mr. HIV Positive Living

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
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Trip End Jul 25, 2006


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Flag of Botswana  ,
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Last Saturday I was asked to attend the Mr. HIV
Positive Living pageant with other members of my host
organization, Botswana Network of AIDS Service
Organizations (BONASO). 

I arrived to the venue about 10 minutes after the
start time to find the ballroom of the fanciest hotel
here relatively empty.  Of course this meant that the
start time would be delayed so that they could
accommodate all the latecomers.  In the meantime, I
was rubbing shoulders with the ambassadors from
Namibia, US, Kenya, Zambia etc...plus the WHO and
UNAIDS representatives.  I felt a little bit out of my
league!

After waiting over an hour, the show finally started
with some drumming and dancing done by some of the
children at a local orphanage.  Then the contestants
for the pageant were lead in.  It was a very strange
experience (Jessica...it rated a 6 on the weirdness
scale).  The reason we were all staring at these
people was because they had tested positive for the
HIV virus. 

The contestants were fantastic and the show turned out
to be wonderful.  It was the first of its kind in the
world so Botswana is really leading the way for some
innovative actions at tackling stigma.  I've attached
a link to a picture so you can get a better idea of
the show.

Even more interesting was my meeting yesterday.  The
meeting was with the Treatment Action Campaign group.
It was the group that lead the fight for getting
access to ARVs in South Africa.  In fact, they are one
of the leading advocacy groups in the world. 

Anyways, I was so impressed that during the course of
this meeting approximately 8 people said that they had
tested positive for the virus.  With only 22 people in
the room, that's a pretty staggering ratio (and
remember, that's only the people that openly admitted
to being positive).  So the good news seems to be that
the stigma associated with the disease is rapidly
reducing such that people do not have to fear being
tested, nor seeking the treatment that they need to
stay healthy.

Anyways, I'm off to a meeting regarding the expansion
of VCT services in Botswana.  I'm sure it will be
another eye opening experience.  I'm definitely
learning a lot!

Bye for now!
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