Everyone loves a good “they said it couldn’t be done” story. From a man on the moon to a personal computer in every home, the nostalgic in each of us loves to reflect about how, throughout history, individuals have run up against the status quo, defied the odds, and achieved something inspirational for society at-large. Those of us in the AIDS advocacy community have experienced our fair share of doubters telling us “it can’t be done.”
Now more than ever, we must recommit ourselves to achieving specific goals by 2015 that will help us bend the curve of this pandemic: end mother-to-child transmission of HIV, provide treatment to 15 million people, and drastically reduce new HIV infections.
Here are a just a few samples of the inspirational stories in the fight against AIDS: from scientists to activists to politicians:
George Bush is the former President of the United States.
In 2001, an AIDS pandemic threatened to destroy a generation of Africans. In country after country, people were needlessly dying even though new life-saving antiretroviral drugs were available at a reasonable cost. The humanitarian disaster called for dramatic action. Against this backdrop, my administration decided to act and become part of the global effort to stop the spread of AIDS in the developing world. We began by helping create the multinational Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It was a good start, but more was needed.
Joyce Kamwana is a Malawian HIV/AIDS treatment activist.
My name is Joyce Kamwana and I was 25 years old when I first found out I was HIV-positive. Today, I am 48 years old and have lived to see my daughters grow up and have also become a grandmother, thanks to the free treatment I have received through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. A few years before my husband, my baby daughter, and I were diagnosed in 1988, my husband had developed shingles and a boil, and my daughter often had various skin wounds, but we were not sure why.
Three years after we tested positive for HIV, in 1991, my husband passed away and I was left to care for both my daughters single-handedly, having to act as a father and mother in one.
Banza Chela is a Zambian HIV/AIDS mentor.
My name is Banza Chela and I’m a married Zambian gentleman. My life has changed tremendously in so many ways. I never knew or thought that I could be infected with HIV. In 2005, I began experiencing chest pains and suspected I had tuberculosis. After visiting three clinics in Lusaka, none of them were able to detect my extrapulmonary TB.
It was not until I met with a team of doctors in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, who were my elder brother’s workmates, that I was diagnosed as TB- and HIV-positive.
Princess Kasune Zulu is a speaker, author, and AIDS activist.
In 1997, I tested HIV-positive and was given only six months to live. Today, however, I travel the world speaking about HIV/AIDS and raising awareness about human rights issues, gender equality, education for girls, and about child labor, soldiers, and prostitution. Though I was born to a relatively well-off family in Zambia and lived a privileged childhood by my country’s standards, my family struggled when my mother and father became sick with a mystery illness when I was only ten years old. Our lives changed dramatically when we moved to a village where I was forced to walk for miles before school each morning just to provide us with dirty drinking water. I wanted desperately to save my parents and even had to carry my father on my back just to get him to a hospital. Both my parents died within months of each other, leaving me in charge of eight siblings when I was 18.