Central Leader : November 27th 2015
Look Who’s Talking P9 Your Place, Your Paper Your weekly puzzles P12 Friday, November 27, 2015 Central Leader Sophie Jayawardene is an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. PHOTO: JOHN CRAWFORD HIV is not a death sentence CATRINOWEN Having HIV has not been a death sentence for Sophie Jayawardene. She will be sharing her story about HIV on stage for the first time at the Puawai festival. Jayawardene was diagnosed with HIV in 1989 after a routine check-up, having just moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe (Central Leader, February 15, 2013). ‘‘I was pregnant and happily married and it was taken away in one second,’’ she says. She didn’t think she would be ‘‘Just by knowing your status you can look after yourself, get treatment and live.’’ Sophie Jayawardene still alive to tell the tale but the Mt Roskill resident has become an advocate for people living with HIV in New Zealand. In 2014, there were 217 people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand, bringing the total number of people living with HIV in this country to around 3000. Jayawardene says these people are still stigmatised. ‘‘Discrimination is today’s killer, nothing else, because people stay in the closest, they don’t want to come out and talk about it,’’ she says. As a mother and grandmother she believes it is important for the next generation to be educated about the disease. She will be sharing her experiences and how she felt when she was diagnosed. ‘‘Being HIV positive doesn’t mean you’re dying and contagious, but when I was diagnosed I was ignorant so I’m bringing the ignorance that I had to the stage and seeing the funny side of life,’’ she says. The first Puawai Festival is on at Te Pou theatre in New Lynn from November 26, ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1. Organiser of the festival Borni Tukiwaho hopes it can change perceptions and break down stigma associated with HIV. ‘‘Puawai translated means to bloom, come to fruition or to open out,’’ he says. The six-day celebration is showcasing people’s stories and involves dance, comedy, cabaret and art installations. For Jayawardene having HIV means she can help others in communities like her own, where it is not accepted. ‘‘You can get help and live longer, it’s no longer a death sentence,’’ she says. ‘‘Just by knowing your status you can look after yourself, get treatment and live.’’ Go to iticket.co.nz for more information and to buy tickets. M S a y 6839726AA www.communitynewspapers.co.nz and you can read all Keeping our local communities connected.
November 25th 2015