News / USA

    HIV-Positive Women Share Their Lives Through Photos

    Project offers participants a new way to look at their disease and its challenges

    Tamika Taylor Jackson, who is HIV-positive, took this picture of the 17 pills she must take each day.
    Tamika Taylor Jackson, who is HIV-positive, took this picture of the 17 pills she must take each day.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - affects more than 30 million people worldwide. About half of them are women. An HIV diagnosis can lead not just to debilitating medical problems but also to social stigma and isolation.

    However, a unique photography project is giving some HIV-positive women a new way to look at their disease and its challenges.

    Photo challenge

    University of Missouri-Columbia researcher Michelle Teti has been doing HIV prevention work in the United States for about 10 years and was struck by what she saw as a mismatch between what public health programs offered and what HIV-positive women said they needed.

    "Sometimes HIV wasn’t even the biggest priority. They might not have had housing. They might have been in violent relationships," says Teti. "So I decided to kind of take a step back and find ways to let women identify their health priorities, and identify problems, and identify solutions."



    With the help of health organizations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and St. Louis, Missouri, Teti recruited HIV-positive women to participate in a photography project. She gave them  digital cameras, taught them how to use them, and sent them out to photograph their lives.

    Some women took pictures of themselves. Others photographed people in their support networks, or specific challenges they were facing, like substandard housing. And many, Teti says, used the photographs to show how they had worked to change their lives after being diagnosed with HIV.

    "A lot of women - when they found out they were living with this virus - felt kind of desperate or hopeless, and a lot of women described a transition, or transformation, to a place where they were more hopeful and healthy."

    Changing lives

    That was the case with 26-year-old St. Louis resident Tamika Taylor Jackson, who learned  she was HIV-positive in December 2001. Her husband left her while she was in the hospital. Then the bank foreclosed on Jackson's house, leaving her with three young children, and nowhere to live.

    "When I first was diagnosed, it was a very hard and emotional thing for me," says Jackson. "And some of the closest people that I thought would be there for me was not there for me because they thought I was just a big disease, a big germ."

    Jackson used the photography project to show how she has transformed her life since her diagnosis. She took pictures of the houses she’s lived in, her medications and the spiritual books she reads for inspiration.

    Shoe inspiration

    Jackson also took pictures of her shoes. Not real shoes to wear, but miniature ceramic ones, in brightly-colored patterns. She has about a dozen of them, prominently displayed on shelves near her front door.

    "Every time I’ve accomplished something, I always go out and find a shoe to reward myself with. I’ve made progress, I’ve stepped up, I’ve achieved something, so I’m going to go find me a shoe."

    The first one was a gold boot.

    "And I purchased that when I realized to myself that, 'OK, I want a divorce.' Then came, I believe, the zebra-striped shoe at the top."

    Another shoe was for finding a place to live.

    A yellow shoe represents the time during which she met her boyfriend. Jackson bought a shoe when she found a better house, got a job, bought a car, and she bought a shoe when she moved into the home she lives in with her children today.

    Positive transformation

    Researcher Michelle Teti hopes all the women in the photography project can hold on to that feeling of positive transformation.

    "They’re just really strong women and really just committed to being healthy and being better," says Teti, "and this process allows them to reflect on that."

    Participating in the photography project, she adds, can give HIV-positive women a new way to look at their lives, to figure out what they may still want to change, and to congratulate themselves for what they’ve done right.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora