LEONIE MARINOVICH's series of portraits are the catalyst for a discussion in which urban African women speak frankly about the nuances and strategies of living with their HIV status, and of dealing with male violence in their societies.
Marinovich has long been photographing people in rural communities who are living with HIV, and this collaboration with UNAIDS was an opportunity to chat about the things people usually don’t discuss about the virus, and for women of all ages to speak about their life experiences.
One of the most emphasised themes to emerge was that of image, self-image and how women wish to present themselves to the world. The interplay between these intimate confidences and the confident, comfortable manner that these women offer themselves to the photographer’s camera interact in a remarkable way with the stories of their lives and emotions that they present verbally.
Linda de Villiers
Born ’69, December 31
First of all, I found out he had cheated and I asked him about condom use and he
kind of said yes and I half believed him.
The thing is you never know what you’ll feel, right? And the period from when I
got tested to when I got the results was the worst of my life, because I didn’t know for sure. I sent a lot of really rude SMSes to my ex at the time, while I was waiting for the test.
My doctor said, You’re HIV-positive. For some reason, I felt some relief. Okay, at
least I know. Now I know what it is, I know what to do and how to deal with it
and I’ll deal with it. I wasn’t angry anymore, I lost my anger. I can’t go backwards,
I don’t want to go down; there’s only one way to go and that’s forwards, really.
My grandmother is very Christian and for her like, HIV/AIDS is like punishment from God or whatever, I don’t have a Christian background. I don’t think sex is a very bad thing and this is a punishment. For me it’s just like, it’s just a disease, I’ll deal with it.
Me, from day one, I have been open about it to everybody here, people I work with, friends, all my family, I told everybody at the same time.
In the beginning I worried about having a relationship with somebody again – can I still have sex? Would people still want to have sex with me?
I was very, very depressed for a long time and I didn’t see the point of life anymore, but looking back on it, with HIV, it’s manageable.
I know I’m educated, I’m not poor, I have medical aid, I can search things on the internet, go to the right doctors.
Obviously we all have to die, but I don’t want to die young, I want to live life to
the fullest and get old. DM