Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today’s guest isPOZ editor Regan Hofmann. POZ won an Utne Independent Press Award last year for its work covering one of the most diverse audiences out there: people living with HIV/AIDS. Here are Hofmann’s picks (check back tomorrow for Geez editor Will Braun):
The stigma around HIV has yet to significantly wane after 28 years of a global epidemic. As an openly HIV positive woman involved in a daily struggle against the stigmatization of people living with HIV, I sometimes ask myself whether it is possible to change people’s perceptions. When you’re fighting a seemingly unwinnable battle every day, it’s helpful to remind yourself that there are many other people around the world fighting arguably even more difficult wars of social injustice and that they occasionally win.
Here are links to five people I have met have who inspire me with their incredible commitment to preserving the health and dignity of humanity despite unspeakable odds. They serve as reminders that a single person with the right level of determination and motivation can do what armies of people sometimes cannot.
Fighting Bondage: Somaly Mam, a Cambodian activist and founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation, strives to end the slavery of women and children by eradicating human trafficking. Freed herself from a life of bondage, she fights an industry profiting between $7-12 billion U.S. dollars a year and gives victims and survivors a voice, empowering them to “create and sustain lives of dignity” despite the atrocities they have survived.
On the Ground: Christopher Morrison is the founder and executive director of Care Highway, an organization that responds swiftly to natural and manmade disasters around the world. Based on the notion that everyone has the right to freedom and security, Care Highway works with human rights “on a practical level and not with issues concerning governments, political factions, ideologies, economic interests, or religious creeds.” When political unrest or faith-based issues keep some relief organizations from a given area, Care Highway goes in.
HIV in China:Dr. Gao Yaojie and Li Dan are both AIDS activists in China who helped daylight the problem of HIV polluting the blood supply in rural Zhengzhou, Henan province when the Chinese government maintained it was not a concern. Despite being put under house arrest because of their efforts to highlight the AIDS epidemic there, they both continue to fight unrelentingly for justice for people living with HIV in China.
Twana Twitu: Mwende Edozie is the founder of the Twana Twitu orphanage in Kenya. While on vacation in Africa, she saw the faces of many children on the obituary pages of the local newspapers. She asked, “How had Kenya allowed the pandemic to reach such catastrophic heights? Why were all these deaths not raising more fear? Were their interventions in place to prevent further spread? And finally, did support systems exist to protect the survivors particularly the children?” Seeking the answers led to Twana Twitu. Today, she sends food, money, clothing and medical care to 55 children in and around the Migwani division, near her hometown.
News by You: I also like Demotix, a new site for citizen journalism that allows people to upload stories and photos; they then get sent to the mainstream media.
BIO: Regan Hofmann is the editor-in-chief of POZ magazine and poz.com. She is on the boards of The National Association of People with AIDS and The Names Project (which uses the AIDS Memorial Quilt for HIV education and prevention). She is an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. She has a memoir coming out this September describing her personal journey from secrecy to public AIDS advocacy and entitled “I Have Something to Tell You.” Regan is currently working with the staffs of POZ and NAPWA on The Denver Principles Project that aims to reawaken the spirit of self-empowerment for people living with and affected by HIV.