I was already involved in public health when I first remember hearing regularly about HIV /AIDS about 12 years ago. But it was peripheral to me and my work and I continued with my business of improving the nutritional status of Zambian children under the age of five, and pregnant and lactating women. Then HIV personally struck me. I was actually one of “the people living with HIV”. The first two years of knowing my status was a turning point in my life, as I integrated the knowledge. Later, I decided to share this turning point with others.
I began working for JSI’s SHARe, project, which gave me “space” to explore my new world and find ways of reaching out to others. In my work, I saw first-hand the loss of self-esteem, the loss of hope in many people that I met and I made it my business to restore that lost esteem and hope. My resolve has been to reach out to people with one simple message: “I have, so can you.”
For me, working in the area of HIV is through a special, personal experience lens. I help many people realize that they too have this unique lens which can be used in very powerful ways to effect positive change and for connecting with individuals and organizations. A special focus of my work has been with Public Workers living with HIV, through a program we coined PAW (Positive Action by Workers). This has been a rewarding experience, considering the perverse stigma in workplaces and among people in the working bracket. The work has also provided another unexpected reward for me personally, beyond professional satisfaction: true, I have taken the brave step of sharing my personal story in order to help others. But by helping them realize their potential, even amidst HIV, I also created opportunities for people to reach out to me; thus creating a web of support for sustenance. This brings me great joy.