Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Live Hope Love

No one ever wants to become a statistic. But for many people living with HIV/AIDS (particularly outside of the United States), their daily struggles and challenges living with the disease have been relegated to being charts and bar graphs in United Nations and World Health Organization reports. While these organizations have played a very important role in providing assistance to these men, women, and children in need, it is important to remember that behind every "statistic" are real lives, hopes, and dreams.

Using the power of the Web and other multimedia outlets, journalists and activists have been able reach a large audience to tell these often forgotten stories. In 2006, NPR aired the audio diaries of Thembi Ngubane, a young South African woman living with AIDS. She carried a microphone and recorder around her small village outside of Cape Town documenting her daily experiences and reflecting on her life. When she came to the United States that spring for a tour, I was able to see her speak to a small gathering in Boston. Her courage, optimism, and strength touched everyone in the room.

More recently, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has launched a new interactive website called "Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica" which utilizes interviews, videos, images, poetry, and music to reveal the complexity of the AIDS experience in Jamaica, a country that has felt the full effects of the disease. At the core of the site are poems written by Kwame Dawes that were inspired by his five trips to Jamaica at the end of 2007. The stories he heard there were, in his words, both "anthems of hope and alarms of warning." Dawes is a fantastic writer and poet (author of one of my favorite books, Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius), and his work brings to life the experiences of these Jamaicans in a way a 2 minute BBC report simply can't.

"Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica" can be found here. For more about the Pulitzer Center, a leading sponsor of independent journalists who cover under-reported stories and conflicts, click here.

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