It is a voluntary community-based initiative to bring awareness to issues surrounding HIV and Aids and an attempt to eradicate stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with the HIV virus.
The idea of Miss HIV Positive Living was mooted in 2009 by 38-year-old Shingirirai Makoni who is living positively with the virus. Vivacious Makoni, a mother of two had to grapple with her husband’s denial of his HIV status after he got seriously ill in 2005.
Her husband believed that his sickness was because of people bewitching him and he even went to the extent of refusing to take medication. He died in 2006.
But the tough talking Makoni refused to be discouraged by the stigma surrounding people living with HIV. She gathered her strength and went on to get tested in 2005 at a New Start Centre in Bulawayo. She tested positive and vowed from that day she would live her life, with a positive attitude and mind.
Today Makoni is a living testimomy of people who accept their HIV positive status and a force to reckon with in her community as she champions the fight against discrimination of HIV positive people through a beauty pageant.
What makes the pageant unique is that there is no financial gain attached to it. “Addressing HIV and Aids issues particularly at grassroots level requires a patient but tough heart. When you are a role model and fighting stigma against people living with HIV you should not expect material gain.
It is indeed a calling and a passion that one carries for the rest of her or his life,” said Makoni. But besides this being a noble idea from a rural initiative in addressing HIV and Aids issues, one might be forced to wonder where the corporate world, individuals, politicians and the donor community are. This pageant requires support to make it big and national.
We have witnessed the corporate world donating expensive cars to winners of other beauty pageants. The question is: Where are they when it comes to community-based initiatives and unique ideas like the Miss HIV Positive Living, which would make a serious impact in issues related to Aids.
Could the reason be that they are not aware of such pageants, or is it shameful to pour resources to those who want to showcase the beauty of living with HIV?
The questions are endless but they definitely need an answer. The hope is everyone will play their part in making Makoni’s dream of a big HIV positive pageant, a dream come true — a dream that encourages people to showcase the beauty of living positively with the HIV virus.
What is clear from grassroots level initiatives like Miss HIV Positive Living is that they lack publicity. The media’s role in covering such developmental projects again comes under scrutiny.
BY STEPHEN CHADENGA