Yesterday I was working on a film set with a bunch of other Artists. While getting my hair and makeup done, one of the Artists beside me began discussing the topic of HIV. Specifically she spoke about how she had recently learned of her fellow Artist friends that were HIV positive. Awkwardly she said, she had not learned of their status from these people themselves but rather from mutual friends. This she said, left her in a rather uncomfortable situation of knowing but not being able to say anything. This is interesting to me! Firstly, given the stigma and fear related to HIV I must just say that, it is not ok to disclose the status of someone else as a third party, unless given permission from the actual person!!! If you are selfish enough to be one of these people, I question you ability to reflect in the impact of your actions.
Gossip is however something that cannot be avoided or stopped. It is a natural part of human interaction and living. In South Africa gossip (or skinner as we call it) about being HIV positive should be expected. What is interesting to me, are the reactions many of us have when we hear the status of others. Like my friend yesterday, notes that se now felt awkward around these people…
Of course I could say, well what does it matter whether your friends are HIV positive or not? Unless your sleeping with them, or planning on becoming blood brothers, their status shouldn’t make a difference. My question then, is why does it make a difference and why does it even matter? Why does it make us feel uncomfortable?
Times are changing people! A few years ago, being diagnosed with HIV was a ‘death sentence’, today HIV infection is considered to be more of a chronic illness that can be treated with anti-retrovirals (ARV). HIV positive people receiving ARV treatment can look towards their futures now. Not only are ARV’s life-saving drugs for such individuals, but these drugs also decrease the risk of them transmitting the virus to those close to them by a reported 96% (sexual relationship or otherwise). Finally, we are starting to see some light! But adherence to ARV treatment is a tricky business. At first people thought; ‘oh wonderful take this drug and I’ll be fine’, recent research suggests that ARV requires a life-long demanding and expensive regiment that few people are actually able to carry through with. So yes, ARV’s are great, but they come with their own set of problems. It is therefore still important to understand the need to eradicate HIV from our communities.
Having said this, infection rates in South Africa are still very high! While many of us South Africans are getting tested and becoming informed about our status and taking care of our health, there are many of us who continue through ignorance or perhaps fear, or lack of resources, to spread this virus. Speaking for myself as an adult living in South Africa, I feel I have the power to protect myself from the devastation of HIV/AIDS. From this state of reason, I expect other South African adults to take control of their own health too. I cannot spend my time worrying about those that are able to worry and protect themselves, but what about those that do not have the power to protect themselves against infection… Like babies?
According to Avert.org, Mother-to-child transmission accounts for 90% of children infected with HIV in South Africa! Mother-to-child transmission includes instances whereby a child becomes infected during; pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. In this sense, mothers do not only have a responsibility to protect themselves from HIV infection, but to their children as well. Even-though a mother may be HIV positive, she is still able to give birth to HIV negative children. In fact, today, every baby can be born HIV free!
So how do we ensure this? How do we go from 90% of children becoming infected from their mothers, to 0%? Click on the link below and take a look at what these HIV positive mothers think…
This is fantastic advice! I specifically like no.2 & 4 on the list of suggestions.
Follow the link and read about this new AIDS-like disease…
- Mysterious New AIDS-Like Disease Affects Asians (healthland.time.com)
- More on the “AIDS-like” disease (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- A new AIDS-like disease? (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Mysterious Disease – Is It The Start Of The Zombie Plague? (radaronelson.wordpress.com)
- AIDS-like disease found in Asians, trigger unknown (rt.com)
- Mysterious Disease Leaves Patients With AIDS-like Symptons, But Not HIV (newstalkcleveland.com)
- Researchers Find Mysterious New AIDS-Like Disease (investmentwatchblog.com)
- New AIDS-like mystery disease (english.ruvr.ru)
- ‘AIDS-like’ disease identified in Asia (kshb.com)
I agree that being flexible is key to getting the best out of those you work with. There is a fine balance though that needs to be achieved. It is possible to be too flexible.
Last week I had the pleasure of taking part in Dance for a Cure, a dance benefit aimed at protecting and supporting young South African ladies in the fight against cervical cancer by raising awareness and funds. Since 2007 all dancers, other artists, technicians, and friends involved in the show, do so on a pro-bono basis and all proceeds from ticket sales are used to fund an HPV (Human Papilloma virus) vaccination programme within the country.
According to the information represented on the Dance for a Cure website (http://www.danceforacure.co.za/), an estimated 5000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, while an estimated 3000 women are dying from this PREVENTABLE disease every year. Proudly, Dance for a Cure manages to vaccinate more and more children each year, not to mention raising awareness for many women to take control of their health with regular pap smears and getting themselves and their daughters vaccinated.
I myself was prompted by my performance in Dance for a Cure 2010 to get vaccinated, adding to that the benefit is an annual reminder for me to take care of my myself and my cervical cancer risk. By simply checking in with the Doc once a year, I can prevent an otherwise life threatening disease. To be fair though, I knew about the HPV virus and the vaccination, long before I knew about Dance for a Cure. Why then, was I not already vaccinated?
If I am honest, I knew I should go to the Doc and ask for the vaccination, but I was too shy and embarrassed. My thoughts were along the lines of; I don’t need the vaccination, because I am not a person that sleeps around. Clearly for me, there was a lot of STIGMA attached to receiving a cervical cancer vaccination. According to my thoughts, those that get HPV must have slept around. Of course this is not the case, and of course I knew this and still do know that this is not the case, but I was still afraid that this was the impression I was giving if I did ask for the vaccination.
Apparently, I am not the only person falling into this STIGMA trap. According to many published studies around the world, the stigmatization and shame around sexually transmitted diseases is one of the top reasons why people shy away from taking control over their sexual health. Thankfully being apart of a benefit that coupled dance and other beautiful art forms with cervical cancer and HPV vaccination, gave me the opportunity to re-programme my thoughts. I now view it for what it is; a completely preventable disease. Dance for a Cure is completely responsible for the eradication of my STIGMA, and the power I now possess over my life and sexual health. On a very personal level then, I owe a lot to Dance for a Cure, since I’m not convinced I would otherwise be vaccinated.
What an honor to be apart of something so amazing! Working with so many talented and dedicated people! HEART has a lot to learn from Dance for a Cure. While a vaccination against HIV is still pending, ARV’s for people living with HIV are available and awareness programmes around safe sex practice for HIV free people remains a high priority. However, just like in my own experience, while the information is out there and the drugs are available, studies show that people do not necessarily take control of their health and protect themselves against HIV by practicing safer sex, knowing their status and, or by adhering to ARV treatment. It is important for HEART and all those involved in HEART to consider now, the role they play in eradicating HIV related STIGMA through the use of the Arts.
“BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE” (Mahatma Ghandi – Indian political and spiritual leader)
Hello World indeed, HEART is here!!
My name is Kristy Errington and I am the founder and current managing director of HEART. Through my own experience as an artist, dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, and Psych student I have always been aware of the Arts as mediums for healing, growth and support.
In 2010 I attended the WITS DRAMA FOR LIFE Conference where I spoke about the dance diversion programme I run at the Teddy Bear Clinic for young sex offenders. It was at this conference that I was inspired to work in the field of HIV/AIDS and broaden my work medium to include all Arts form. This initail seed of inspiratin to shape in the form of HEART; an HIV/AIDS Educative support programme through Arts and Recreational Teamwork.
HEART started running in 2012 and is currently being run as a holiday programme for the children and other community members of Nkosi’s Haven (a home for desolate HIV infected moms, their children or resultant orphans). Every holiday this year myself and other members of the HEART team have provided various different Arts workshops for the kids and caregivers at the Haven. Currently there are 6 of us on the team, our backgrounds ranging from; Dance, Theatra, Drama, Writting, and Art. Check out our profiles on our website here.. http://www.heart-artsa.co.za/the-team/
At the moment we are gearing towards the end of year showcase for all those participating in HEART 2012. Thanks to the generosity of Nadia Katz (HEART team member), all those involved in HEART are set to perform on the 13th October at the WITS theatre, alongside Nadia’s dance studio. This will provide us with an opportunity to perform on a great stage, showcase all our hard work, meet new friends, and have a great time! Next year we plan to sustain our involvment with Nkosi’s Haven and extend our reach to other such organizations in Jhb, SA. In order to sustain this growth we will be working towards expanding our team which means we are always open to new applicants. You can gain acces to put application from the following link; http://www.heart-artsa.co.za/application/
Simce we are just starting out, we need all the support we can get! This blog serves to create a platform of transparency for those involved in HEART and other Arts programmes to share experiences, ideas, and knowledge. With this blog we hope to inspire more people to get involved.