Coastal women tackle HIV stigma by going public

29 Nov 2016 12:40pm
SWAKOPMUND, 29 NOV (NAMPA) - Seven young women from Swakopmund living with HIV/Aids disclosed their status to the public on Monday evening when they competed in the first Miss HIV-Positive beauty pageant in Namibia.
Their aim is to stop stigma and discrimination against people living with the disease.
Out of the seven, Shirleen Johannes was crowned Miss HIV-Positive, Madlein Goagoses as First Princess and Ottilie Noongo as Second Princess.
Another woman who only gave her name as Emma ‘Big Mama’ won the Miss Personality title.
Accepting her crown, Johannes said her mission is to challenge the HIV stigma.
“I will go out to the community and encourage them to stop the stigma and discriminating us who are living with HIV/Aids,” she said.
She wants people to be confident and feel free to seek medication to live a normal life, like her.
“I do not fear discrimination,” she said when asked about her motto.
Johannes is now the face of a campaign against HIV/Aids and is expected to spread the positive message of living with the deadly disease.
The majority of contestants said they live a happy and normal life without allowing the pandemic to ruin that.
Others are determined to achieve the goals they set before knowing they were HIV positive and work with others living with HIV to break barriers they face every day.
These include access to employment, scholarships and life insurance, which on most occasions are not provided for HIV-positive people and if provided, come at a high cost.
The competition was led by Allen van Wyk, who also disclosed her HIV-positive status. She encouraged those in the same situation to live positively.
“It is only when we unite that we can successfully defeat HIV/Aids. If we want a free HIV/Aids nation we need to start fighting now,” Van Wyk told the crowd.
She wants the practice of people going public about their HIV status and encouraging people to live positively to continue.
Organisers plan to host the event again next year and encouraged more people to take part.
Winners did not receive any prizes as there were no sponsors for that.
Miss HIV-Positive is part of the first-ever Namibia HIV/Aids Conference hosted by the Ministry of Health and Social Services from last Monday to Wednesday.