PhotoVoice and the International Aids/HIV Alliance work with with representatives from key groups affected by HIV in the South Asian nation of Myanmar.
Matt Daw, Gemma Taylor
International HIV/AIDS Alliance
International HIV/AIDS Alliance
Thiha Nyi Nyi / Richard, with special thanks to Sanford and Htun
PhotoVoice and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance joined forces in January 2014 to work with the ‘Myanmar Youth Stars‘ a group of under 25 representatives from key groups affected by HIV in the South East Asian nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Key groups include sex workers, gay people of both sexes, MSMs (men who have sex with men not necessarily identifying as gay) and transgender people (a person whose gender identity is not aligned with their assigned sex).
The Youth Stars act as representatives for their communities, and gain support and skills to build their confidence in meeting the challenges they face in a country where committing an ‘unnatural sex act’ is still a crime (no detail is given in the penal code as to what falls under this definition), and where HIV is a taboo subject too infrequently discussed and too often misunderstood. This unwillingness to discuss and address risks and effects of HIV, and the lack of acceptance of those most at risk because of fear and ignorance, compounds the risks faced by young people in Myanmar before and after becoming HIV Positive.
- To increase visibility of key groups, challenge stigma and misconceptions that increase risks faced by them and other young people
- To build the skills of the Youth Stars to enable them to be effective advocates and peer educators
Through the PhotoVoice workshops in the capital city of Yangon, these inspiring young people have produced photo stories that will raise awareness and deepen understanding on issues around the spread of HIV in Myanmar, and will help raise awareness and create dialogue with young people whose actions can make a difference to their safety and the safety of others. What they would struggle to safely say in person to many members of the general public in Yangon, their photos communicate in a powerful and accessible way.
These individuals are the vanguard of a generation that will demand the right to live and love as they please, and to have their health protected and cared for regardless of their gender or HIV status. Already there are positive stories arising from the lives of these young people – a young man living with HIV who is fully supported by his family, and who finds their support vital to his wellbeing and access to services; s transgender women who have lived with partners for years and have built up strong networks of friends in their local areas. Sharing such stories will provide real-life role models for those who feel they should shun key groups to avoid facing stigma themselves.
At the end of the course of PhotoVoice workshops an exhibition of the photos and captions was displayed in People’s Park over a busy weekend, attracting attention from passing crowds of all ages. Nearly all of the 12 participants chose to attend and man the exhibition, meeting visitors and explaining their work. For a country where some of these topics are rarely mentioned in public, this was a powerful step towards more open dialogue and the destruction of the barriers to communication that put so many young people unnecessarily at risk.