Photo Essay: In Mississippi, Scarred but Strong
April 14, 2011
For people living with HIV in Mississippi, the stigma surrounding the disease is often more frightening than the disease itself.
Last month, Human Rights Watch released a scathing report documenting the impact of Mississippi government policies that reinforce AIDS stigma. The state, said the report, has pushed people away from care and forced many into social isolation. Mississippi, as a result, boasts one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country.
But 2011 could be the start of a new era. The governor's seat and spots in both legislative houses are up for grabs, and Mississippians with HIV are speaking up. Activists from AIDS Action in Mississippi (AAIM) recently held a protest in front of the capitol, a daring move in a state with little history of AIDS activism. This week, AAIM launches AIDSVote, a voter and candidate education project that will hold candidates accountable for their positions on critical AIDS issues.
The Update photographed six brave Mississippians whose lives have been scarred by stigma -- but who have chosen to fight back. Photos by Julie Turkewitz for Housing Works.
Victoria, 30, Jackson Photo 3
She's been sober since 2008, but hasn't told family members she is HIV-positive. "They'd bury me before my time," she said. "People here don't want to hear about HIV/AIDS. The stigma is so bad, people feel like, 'If I touch you, I'm gonna get this.' Or, 'If I'm gonna eat after you, I'm gonna get this.' And I feel like the government needs to step up and help us more than they are."
David, 42, Biloxi Photo 4
Jackie, 28, and her daughter, Iyanla, 8, Jackson Photo 5
Tony, 29, Hattiesburg Photo 6
Mouneat, 37, Fayette Photo 7
This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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