‘Beyond & Behind the Faces of HIV/AIDS’, author Tshuma speaks

‘Beyond & Behind the Faces of HIV/AIDS’, author Tshuma speaks

The 1st of December was set aside as ‘World AIDS Day’; the 2023 theme is ‘Remember and Commit’. As this day rolls on by the world remembers the harrowing pandemic that has brought humanity to its knees for decades. “Beyond & Behind the Faces of HIV/AIDS” is a book which features accounts of people who have HIV/AIDS from across the world. It is a breathtaking anthology that details the lived experiences of people.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is one the world has been grappling with since the 1980s, many lives lots, families torn apart and an even far-reaching economic consequence. It is reported that of 36.5 million people have succumbed HIV/AIDS related illness and new infections from below 35-year-olds in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to rise.

We caught up with one of the contributors, a young Zimbabwean actress, speaker and activist Thelma Tshuma. *KM – Kudzai Mhangwa, TT – Thelma Tshuma

KM: Tell me a bit about the book. What motivated its birth?

Picture2 'Beyond & Behind the Faces of HIV/AIDS', author Tshuma speaks

TT: Beyond and behind the faces of HIV and AIDS’ is a compilation of lived experiences of authors from all over the world infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. The main aim for making this book is to eradicate [the] HIV stigma, to show the world the raw experiences of people living with HIV and what they are facing. Yes, a bit of strides have been met but we are going through a lot and not many have a voice to be heard and many are dying in silence too.

KM: Were you scared sharing your story with the world?

TT: Not at all I opened up about my status to the world in 2018 and have been an activist since then.

KM: What do you think the book will achieve?

TT: I think the book will open people’s eyes to the plight of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Also it will encourage many to soldier on with whatever they might be facing in their lives and some might get the courage to get tested and also some will get the nudge to accept their HIV positive statuses and live their lives to the fullest.

KM: Are you the only Zimbabwean contributor? 

TT: No I’m not. There are other authors from Zimbabwe and life stories from thirty-one authors from all over the world infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. The book is available online on Amazon. CLICK HERE TO BUY

Beyond and Behind the Faces of HIV and AIDS

by Wadzanai Valerie Garwe (Author), Heather Ellis (Author), Stephanie Lee (Author), Thelma Atiboke Tshuma (Author), Susan Paxton (Author), Catherine Murombedzi (Author), Doreen Mashinga (Author), Wellington David (Author), Ras Silas Motse (Illustrator), Avery Katsande (Editor) 

Picture1-1 'Beyond & Behind the Faces of HIV/AIDS', author Tshuma speaks

This is a book of quintessential lived experiences. What we have been doing to date is not working. The statistics tell the story, and now COVID is putting HIV and AIDS on the back burner. As it stands, 28.2 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy as of the 30th June 2021. Roughly 30 to 45 million people globally were living with HIV in 2020 and 1.5 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2020. Over 36.3 million people have died from AIDS and AIDS related illnesses since the start of the epidemic compared to 6.3 million deaths from Coronavirus as of May 2022. Coronavirus has a vaccine. COVID will never be the killer pandemic that HIV is, and continues to be. We need a new way to combat the stigma. Whatever we are doing is not working.

Maybe people need to connect to real people and real stories. All these are real and versatile stories of people living with HIV. From life, love, death, and all things in-between. Each story will touch your heart. We hope these stories will help frontline workers working within HIV/AIDS ridden communities to get a better understanding of what the trauma of being HIV positive entails to the person who gets the diagnosis. This book is the start to creating a movement that really helps to end the stigma. Let us end transmissions by 2030. It is devastating that there are still children born HIV positive and it’s entirely due to the lack of knowledge. Young people are saying they would never date a person who is HIV positive. What does that say to a young person born with the HIV virus? You are not worthy of love? May this book help us to normalize HIV as a chronic disease and not one in which the stigma is creating a “them and us” scenario. We hope as you read this book, it will educate, inform and transform your mindset.

Kudzai Mhangwa

Kudzai Mhangwa is a writer, actor and musician. He writes poetry, plays, essays and short stories. His work has been featured on House of Mutapa, Atrebla Magazine, Ka'edi Africa, Poetry Soup and elsewhere.

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