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SWAZILAND: PWAs tell their stories

Photo: Development Workshop
Testimonies of hope
johannesburg, 8 May 2002 (PlusNews) - In a move considered to be a breakthrough for the conservative kingdom of Swaziland, more than thirty people living with HIV/AIDS have come forward to tell their stories in a new book to be released this week.

'Life Stories: Testimonies of Hope from People with HIV and AIDS' is a collection of interviews with 30 Swazis from a diverse group who share experiences about living positively with HIV/AIDS. The book also contains stories from "involved parties", family members, counsellors and friends showing how to care for those living with HIV positive people.

UNICEF commissioned the book following discussions with a local doctor who related how his HIV-positive patients benefited from a positive attitude. "After this conversation, we thought that these stories needed to be shared," UNICEF Resident Representative, Alan Brody, told PlusNews.

They (UNICEF) felt that such a book of stories from those who had overcome their fears to find out their HIV status and gone on to find ways to live positively with HIV could help others to understand that HIV infection was not the end of one's life, he said.

"Educators and policy-makers have spread messages of fear about HIV and AIDS. That fear has paralysed many in Swaziland, the African continent and the rest of the world. The book is about a small group of Swazis who have put aside that fear to continue living their lives," UNICEF said in a press release.

Almost a half of the people interviewed chose to use their real names. This was particularly remarkable considering the stigma and fear that still existed in the kingdom, James Hall, the book's author, said. Many of the interviewees feared that they would be stigmatised and relatives would not come to their funerals for fear of contracting the disease from the corpse, he added.

The book has already received a favourable response from the Royal family. After reading the initial manuscript, King Mswati III expressed an interest in getting involved and wrote the book's foreword, Hall said.

One Swazi male youth reader said of the book: "In this book, I have learnt that being HIV positive does not mean the end for you."

Up to 25,000 copies of the book will be distributed nationally to churches, schools and health workers, as well as various NGOs involved in AIDS education.

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Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC