You don’t have to be in power to be a leader
06 October 2008
“Portraits of Commitment” is a stunning and
thought-provoking book of photographic
portraits which was launched in 2007 by
the Asia Pacific leadership Forum on
HIV/AIDS and Development (APLF).
“Portraits of Commitment” is a stunning and thought-provoking book of photographic portraits which was launched in 2007 by the Asia Pacific leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development (APLF). The book features people from all walks of life in South Asia who, for a range of different reasons, are working to raise awareness among their communities about HIV.
For some, their commitment to the AIDS response stems from personal motivation such as Dr Michael Abeyaratne whose wife became infected with HIV through a blood transfusion, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi whose best friend died in her arms, or Yusif Hamid, a scientist developing affordable medication. Others were already in the public eye and decided to use their popularity or political clout to campaign for acceptance and treatment.
Rising above discrimination
The portraits, taken by the celebrated Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam are accompanied by poignant interviews. Most recount experience of stigma in communities where even local politicians often don’t know how HIV is transmitted. Several of those featured have emerged as leaders. Those who would never in their past have seen themselves in such a role, now recognize that they are in a unique position to share and respond to the needs of their communities.
It is striking, among the all-too-common stories of women facing discrimination, to hear one of those profiled Jahnabi Goswami say that her family and neighbours surrounded her with love and support and encouraged her to use her positive status to inform other wives about HIV.
India Cricket Captain Rahul Dravid has
recorded TV and radio messages that raise
AIDS awareness in remote villages across
India. Credits: UNAIDS/ Shahidul Alam
Religious and spiritual leaders are also celebrated, united by common concern about illness, ignorance, discrimination and the future of their countries.
“If an individual is sick, we can leave it to his or her family to take care of it. But when there’s an epidemic, the government and society must act,” says one of the most celebrated modern mystics, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.
Shalina Bharat is the dean of the School of Health Studies in Mumbai, India. She has pioneered social research in the field of impact of HIV on society. “I know what it means when rights are discriminated or violated; I have seen how it affects people.”
Power of love
The power of love between individuals is another theme running through this book as with the husband and wife Rubina and Asim. Rubina is an HIV-negative wife married to an HIV-positive husband. “I wanted to prove to the world that marrying an HIV positive person is normal,” she says. View photo gallery “South Asia: Portraits of Commitment.”