An ongoing photographic narrative exploring the oppression and multiple marginalisation of women living with HIV. foreign/bodies is collection of images that explores women’s negative experiences of living with HIV: the disconnect between self, identity and body image.
HIV is so much more than a disease: it impacts on how women are viewed in society and more importantly how they view themselves. Being HIV positive impacts on all aspects of women’s lives – and yet little attention is paid to how women often experience a shift in body image and identity - a disconnect between themselves and their bodies, what they were before and what they are now. The impact for HIV for women is multi-layed and complex. This ongoing project explores self image and self worth after diagnosis, stigma and discrimination and understanding how women deal with the changing body shape due to the effects of HIV. Key areas to be explored include the impact of treatment on body image, cervical cancer, forced sterilization, sexuality and identity, violence against women living with HIV – the physical and emotional implications, what it feels like to live with HIV and what it feels like to live with AIDS - documenting what can be seem and what is not seen
The project is being done in partnership with the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW), to improve the lives of women living with HIV, through highlighting issues and providing an impetus for policy and programme changes.
The first set of images that have been produced explore one woman’s feelings about her body after being on ante retroviral therapy (ART) for a number of years. She says “I see a different me, a body that is not sexual, not feminine but distorted, disfigured and a reminder of my HIV status. I then ask myself - am I a woman, am I still a human being, can I be loved with this distorted body? My daily life is filled with inadequacy and low self esteem - I have lost the essence of me. Life saving drugs have saved my health but at the same time has taken my sense of self’. Many women who are on ART suffer from lipodystrophy (fat redistribution) which changes body shape by reducing fat in arms legs and bottom and increasing fat in the breasts, neck and stomach. Although different drug regimens do exist, that include alternative drugs with fewer side affects, in most countries these options are not available to women.