Miss HIV

Via Reuters:

At a palm tree-studded resort and conference center in the capital Gaborone, 12 girls are competing this weekend for the title “Miss HIV Stigma Free.”

“We are saying here we are, we are HIV positive and it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line,” 33 year old reigning Miss HIV Kgalalelo Ntsepe told Reuters in her cluttered one room cottage, where she displays trophies of her win in 2003.

So what’s next? Miss Leukemia? Miss Congenital Heart Disease? I understand the intentions here – especially in Africa, where HIV is ravaging the nation. But really, wouldn’t they do better to spend the money in ways that help the most people? Maybe the pageant is good for the participants and their families, but what about the majority of HIV infected people who are suffering without access to treatment of any kind? What about the people who don’t even know about the event because they don’t have television, can’t read a newspaper or even listen to radio? Often times, it seems like government programs and well intentioned organizations help a few people, but end up harming more.

This graphic tells the story.

Without real action now, the next ten years will bring to Africa a catastrophe three times the size of the Holocaust, resulting in the possible quarantine of an entire nation. In 2015, will anyone remember who Miss HIV 2005 was? It’s unlikely.


  1. JonasParker says:

    Could you provide the math or links to the math that suggests that 18 million Africans will die of AIDS by 2015? It’s not that I don’t believe that it is true, but I would like some figures behind me when I talk about it. Also, this site doesn’t appear to be using TypeKey properly; I can’t sign in.

  2. Aishwarya says:

    I was researching this pageant and thought I could add something valuable to this post: Thought I’d add a few points to this discussion even though this post comes months too late.

    I think you’re missing an important point here. The “stigma-free” part is more critical than the “Miss HIV” part. Botswana has one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV infection. Much like the rest of the world, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some gross gender inequalities. Women do not hold the agency to demand condom use from their partners, making them biologically and socially more susceptible to HIV infection.

    Women also bear an unfair load of the stigma associated with HIV infection and are horribly ostracized as a result. For example, people won’t buy food from those infected with HIV, depriving people of their livelihoods and making them outcasts in their own communities. This pandemic is threatening the entire fabric of society in this region of the world while devastating the economy.

    The disease is not understood. Clearly, eradication of HIV/AIDS is based heavily on knowledge and understanding. I don’t think the pageant is a waste of money – it’s a useful tool that shows that women are not social pariahs if they are HIV positive, and that there is much to learn from them about prevention – about how anyone can become infected with HIV, that women should and will eventually have the power to have control over their own bodies and demand the use of condoms from partners. And contrary to what you may think, the story has obviously been heard far and wide. And I’m sure the people in Botswana and the organizers of the NGO aren’t ignorant and know how to spread their message to many members of their community.

    The point is not to remember Miss HIV in 15 years. The point is to make it possible for women to control their own lives while empowering others with knowledge that possible beat this horrific disease. We may not yet know why people get Leukemia and congenital heart disease – but we exactly why they get HIV. This is a disease that can potentially be eradicated. Why not use every method of attack to bring it down?

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