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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

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.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Trade Talks Could Heat Up in 2015

With boosting trade a top priority for the Obama administration, 2015 may be the year that an agreement is finally reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership. But the trade deal, which is intended to boost trade between 12 Pacific countries, faces opposition as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

All About America

AppleAndroid