Breaking the silence around HIV

Published 18 November 2019  |  
(Photo: CMS)
A young woman hides behind a curtain, stigmatised and ostracised as a result of her diagnosis but liberated by the chance to tell her story to Rebekka and the team at Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust.

In South Africa, a young mother lives behind the veil of stigma as a result of living with HIV. It is this ostracisation that photographer Rebekka Stredwick captured in her poignant photograph of Nphiwe, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

The image titled 'Breaking the Silence' has just won the Church Mission Society's first ever photo competition, being held as part of the organisation's Mission Is campaign to help people see the breadth of God's mission around the world and challenge them to get involved.

Rebekka heard Nphiwe's story of stigmatisation first hand at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust and was moved to capture her experience in the photo.

She says that through telling her story, Nphiwe got the chance to "cough out" her troubles and raise awareness globally about HIV stigma.

In a short narrative accompanying the image, Rebekka writes: "Hiding behind the curtain, Nphiwe conceals her suffering through a veil of silence. 'There is a stigma when you collect the tablets from the clinics,' the young mother whispers. 'If people see you picking up your treatment they talk. They say, watch that lady – she might give you HIV! This makes me feel bad.'"

'Breaking the Silence' was selected from over 50 entries. In addition to an award, Rebekka will receive £220 in prize money, symbolising the 220 years since Church Mission Society was founded.

One judge said of the photo: "Apart from the beauty of the photo, the breaking down of stigma and prejudice is a key reason why mission deserves all our efforts and attention."

Naomi Steinberg, Head of Communications at CMS, said: "I love Rebekka's photo because it is respectful of the woman featured, which is so important, especially in charity imagery.

"Our first-ever photo competition has been really enjoyable. It's been great seeing people's unique views of God's mission. Even though the competition is officially over, we hope people will continue to share their perspectives on the @mission_is instagram page, which they can do by using #mission_is.

"The more people see the many and varied ways God is at work in our world, the better."

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