Healthy Living: Global Girl Media introduces new perspectives to AIDS conference
This week, world leaders and doctors are meeting at the International Aids Conference in Washington D.C. and two young HIV-positive women from the epicenter of the epidemic, South Africa, will finally have their say. YNN's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
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When Mandisa Madikane was six years old, she was raped by her neighbor in her native Soweto. She's 21 years old now and invited to address a panel at the International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. this week. She will show a short film which gives a very up close and personal look at what it’s like living with HIV in South Africa.
"I want the world to know that being HIV positive is not the end of the world and as a person who has been living with HIV for so many years, I need them to use me as an instrument of healing,” Madikane said.
An instrument of healing is needed now more than ever as South Africa remains the country hardest hit in the world by the epidemic. In South Africa, 18 percent of adults have HIV. It's also a country whose former president was in denial about the existence of HIV. Now, with a new president, it's one of the leading African countries with programs for HIV patients and widespread testing.
Sthokozo Mabaso, 23, is also attending the AIDS Conference. She was diagnosed with HIV in her native Johannesburg and remembers the pain of disclosing her status.
"It was so hard at first. I didn't know how to tell my family, friends and everything but the support I got, they're so wonderful,” Mabaso said.
An organization called Global Girl Media trained Madikane and Mabaso to be citizen journalists at the conference. They will be blogging and asking researchers tough questions.
"I would like to get an opportunity and ask a scientist 'are they getting any progress on the cure of AIDS?'" Mabaso said.
"The stories that these girls chose to report on reflect what they experience in their communities, rape by someone you trust, discrimination of people who are HIV positive,” said Therese Steiner, president of Global Girl Media.
Globally, more than 33 million people live with HIV. These young activists plan to take what they learn back to South Africa and help promote tolerance and be the instrument of healing that is so desperately needed.