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Positive Outlook

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Kwame Dawes [m], poet/writer This is home for me. Jamaica is home for me. I grew up in Jamaica. My family is still in Jamaica. I'm here working on an article on HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. HIV/AIDS has had this weird kind of place in the imagination. Both one of horror, a sense that this becomes a kind of irrevocable sentence to you and yet, one of hope where we get instances of people who manage to live with this disease and so on. Annesha Taylor [f] Well this is my community... This is where I did all the playing and growing up and all of that. When I was eleven I left here, and went to West Africa to live and I came back here now in this community where I live with my mother, my uncle. I have a lot of family members and a lot of friends around my community. [Kwame] I knew something of Annesha's story before I met Annesha. And what I knew of her story was that she was the poster-child for HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and for surviving, for living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. Well that puzzled me and it made me think what would make a girl, a woman, in Jamaica in 2007 take the chance of going up front and admitting to the whole world that she's HIV positive? I knew initially that there must have been an element of bravery there. [Annesha] Stigma in Jamaica is a very big thing. It makes you feel bad. It makes you not want to come out. It makes, it makes you want to kill yourself more faster. Annesha you are beautiful. God Bless you always. Mrs. J Redwood from Vere Technical It's a high school I went to present and they gave me this as a token. Being a poster child everybody is looking up to you. Everybody is going to look at the life that you live. If you are going to practice what you preach. [Kwame] One of the interesting things about Annesha's story is that when I first interviewed Annesha, she seemed concerned about her job, but not overtly so, she didn't say anything about it. about her life, particularly with regards to this project that in fact that Annesha had to step down from the position of being this media figure because she had gotten pregnant while she was going around doing work in terms of talking about abstinence and so on. [Annesha] And sometimes I just sit down and I cry. Because I know What they are expecting of me, I have to live up, I have to live up to it. Yesterday when I was sitting at home, I said... Is this mistake I made in part of it that shattered my career? If you would call it a career. Is it what shattered my child's bread? And I just cry. And I say well... If they call me to do any workshop, I will go. But I will tell them they have to pay me. I'm not going to do anything free for them. I just sit here wondering if they are going to call me to do any work. Or if they are going to call me back and say, here it is, a contract. two months later... [Kwame] So Annesha the last time we talked you weren't even sure whether you'd still be working here at the clinic, right? [Annesha] Yeah. So tell me how that worked out. [Annesha] I got back my contract. I signed back my contract. I'm a community peer educator And we talk about STIs...sexually transmitted infections. Also HIV, and we show them how to put on a condom. I will talk about myself to get more of a response from them. living in serving people, helping people, working with people, educating people and building a life around that task. And maybe, that's the point. Maybe the point is that part of any work against HIV/AIDS in a society will have to take in the role that it's going to play in making those people who are living with the disease able to function and able to look after their family, and able to find the money to buy food so that they can take the medication and so on. So in a sense, Annesha's story may be the story of many of the people who live with the disease but it may also be a lesson to Jamaican society about how it's going to have [Annesha] Just let us come together and fight stigma. HIV is not a death sentence, you can live many many years. And also love persons who are HIV positive. Special Correspondent — Kwame Dawes, Co-Producers — Nathalie Applewhite and Stephen Sapienza Videographers — Nathalie Applewhite, Doug Gritzmacher and Stephen Sapienza Production Assistants — Janeen Heath, Chris Thompson, Glendon Asphal and Darren Scott Produced by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. As featured on "Foreign Exchange," an Azimuth Media Production An extended essay by Kwame Dawes on HIV/AIDS in Jamaica can be found in the Spring 2008 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review at Related video, photographs, poetry and music can be found on

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 27 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in association with Azimuth Media
Director: Stephen Sapienza and Nathalie Applewhite
Views: 226
Posted by: pulitzercenter on May 21, 2008

Once a poster child for living HIV+ in Jamaica, Annesha Taylor knows firsthand that life after a positive diagnosis is not an easy one. The campaigns showing that there is life after a positive diagnosis are right — HIV is not a death sentence. But strong stigma and the difficulties of juggling family life, the batteries of medication and bouts of depression have left Annesha fighting to survive. To learn more, visit

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