HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica
This multi-media reporting initiative draws upon poetry and music - communicated through information and communication technologies (ICTs) - to share the experiences of those living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica with people around the world. United States (US)-based, Ghanaian-Jamaican writer and poet Kwame Dawes traveled to Jamaica to explore the experience of people living with HIV/AIDS and to examine the ways in which the disease has shaped their lives.
"HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica" is an ICT for development project that grew out of several artistic pursuits: an extended essay by Kwame Dawes for The Virginia Quarterly Review (Spring 2008), 2 short documentaries for the public television programme Foreign Exchange (please click on the titles here for access to these videos: "Positive Outlook" and "Talking HIV in Jamaica"), a collection of poetry inspired by his reporting, a performance of the poems set to music, and an interactive web presentation that synthesises audio and text versions of the poems, videos and interviews, music, and photography designed to communicate what it is like to live with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. In short, the project fuses poetry and journalism in order to address stigma, class issues, and the challenges of treatment, using a way to present the materials that is designed to be personal and engaging.
In short, visitors to the Live Hope Love site may engage in various visual and auditory experiences designed to put a human face on the epidemic that, according to organisers, is rarely seen - while at the same time demonstrating how artistic expression can be used in unconventional ways to engage the interest of the broadest possible public.
Here is an excerpt from "A Poet Confronts AIDS In His Home Country" by John Lundberg, The Huffington Post, April 13 2008: "While AIDS is no longer necessarily a death sentence in Jamaica, Dawes illuminates how difficult it is to live with the disease. He joined an AIDS support group at the [Portmore Public Health Clinic] and got to know its members. Some are victims of rape - a horrible myth persists that AIDS can be cured by sex with a virgin - and some (both men and women) have infected and continue to knowingly infect others. They are portraits of strength and weakness, of guilt and of defiance, and many of Dawes' poems are based on their heart-wrenching accounts."
Dawes' journey was sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a US-based non-profit organisation that supports reporting around the globe.