In 2013 women of ELAN's social support group at ASAAP talked about how to address a lack of representation in the HIV/AIDS movement, a recurring theme. Their discussions stemmed from feelings of frustration as they participated in research studies and focus groups yet, did not see their voices as they wanted represented in larger dialogue. The result of their discussion was a stated recommendation for a project that would enable them to create and share their story; not under the umbrella of a research study with summarized findings but simply as a collection of stories that reflect how they see their struggles and their strengths. This was the impetus for 'More Than Fiction.'
The twelve authors of these brave and lucid narratives were engaged in a series of workshops that further developed their capacity for storytelling. Guided by dedicated facilitators and community advisors, creative writing, poetry, and photo voice were some of the modes that were explored over the course of a 4-month period. The authors have each chosen an alias to reflect the silencing impact of stigma and discrimination that has denied many people living with HIV/AIDS the right to live openly. Their stories capture the profound isolation that living a secret life can entail, but they also give voice to the self-compassion and resilience that such challenges engender. In reading these narratives, common themes emerge, yet we also bear witness to the uniqueness of the authors' struggles.
We hope this unique and beautiful collection will inspire thinking and understanding among both communities and service providers. But ultimately, we hope that as the women aspired to do, they have carved a visible space for themselves in HIV and AIDS narratives in Canada.
Vijaya Chikermane, Shazia Islam
Photo Credits: Shazia Islam