|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Radio Youth Reporter Livey Van Wyk.|
By Blue Chevigny
NEW YORK, USA, 6 July 2006 – Livey Van Wyk is 21 years old and living with HIV in Katutura, Namibia. In her home community, she has experienced stigma and discrimination because of her HIV status.
“I have lost many things while having been infected,” she says. “I lost my parents, my family – not that they died, but they have decided they don’t want anything to do with me. I lost my friends. I lost my school. It’s difficult. I’ve been walking in the streets when people have thrown stones at me.”
Livey has done a lot in her country to educate young people about HIV/AIDS. “When I go out to youth I tell them that HIV can also affect them. I also share with them that it’s not easy to live with the virus because you face many challenges,” she says.
As her latest effort to reach out with her message and help prevent HIV and AIDS, Livey has started a ‘Digital Diary’ for UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth, UNICEF’s global cyberspace for children and adolescents to discuss and take action on issues affecting their lives. She is the latest addition to the Digital Diaries project, which allows young people with interesting voices and lives to represent their own experience and produce their own stories.
A moment of honesty
Starting early in 2006, Livey began recording interviews and conversations with other young people in her community as they went about their regular activities, like playing soccer or taking an evening walk. Using a mini-disc recorder and microphone, she asked them to tell her what they knew about HIV and AIDS, and what they planned to do in the future to help stem the tide of the disease.
At one point in her Digital Diary, Livey talks to a young man who knows all the basics about HIV/AIDS and its prevention. Towards the end of the conversation, she reveals to him that she is living with HIV.
“Can you tell by looking at me?” she asks him.
“No, you cannot tell,” he responds. “Because you don’t have sores and the disease did not yet start to take over your body, so you cannot tell by your face.”
It’s a moment of honesty, where Livey tries to convey the reality of the face of HIV and AIDS. “Speaking out as a young person, sharing with young people, really means something. I have seen behavioural changes,” she says.
This is just the first in what promises to be a series of many stories from the life of a Namibian AIDS activist – one who has a distinct voice and a unique way of seeing the world.
1 June 2006:
UNICEF Radio Youth Reporter Livey Van Wyk interviews young people in Namibia about their knowledge of HIV and AIDS for her Digital Diary.
Namibia: HIV/AIDS – A young person fights back [with video and audio]
HIV/AIDS campaign links