Women share HIV positive stories publicly

9NEWS at 4 p.m. 12/1/16.

KUSA - Sometimes an image or a voice can change the way you see the world -- and yourself.

"I'm a collection of trauma, challenges and scars," said a voice in a video.

That voice belongs to Barb Cardell.

"As our first exercise, we had the opportunity to go around the room and for people to share their story," she said.

Barb is one of ten HIV positive women in the Denver metro area who participated in StoryCenter's "Staying Positive," which is a film compromised of a collection of videos, where each woman shares her own story about living with HIV.

"I actually acquired HIV in 1991. So, I am considered a long-term survivor,” Barb said. “I acquired HIV from a boyfriend, which was unfortunate. It was somebody that I trusted, and that happens to a lot of women, especially women who are giving up their power and not asking questions."

Power is a recurring theme in Barb's video. At one point, she says, "So, I gave my power away…"

"I think that to me was the biggest shame is and I see it happening now with girls, which is saying, 'We want to fit in, We want to be like everybody else, instead of standing in our incredible difference," she said.

Kari Hartel was one of the coordinators of the project, which involved a three-day workshop - eight hours each day - filled with a group of women trying to tell their stories. The end result is that each one puts together a three minute video with her story.

"It's really about empowering people to create these videos that tell their story the way they want to tell their story," Hartel said. "I'm really excited that these women felt supported enough to be able to share their video in a more local space, which makes them feel a little more vulnerable."

It's a vulnerability born of the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.

"It preys upon a lot of the “–isms” in our society and the lack of knowledge is what actually feeds into people being at risk for getting HIV," Hartel said.

Barb said she hopes to fight back against that stigma with her video.

"Not only do I get to share and discover a little bit about myself in this process, but I also get to strike a blow against stigma and discrimination,” she said. “Hopefully, people know those of us living with HIV are just like everybody else - that we struggle and that we can overcome."

The Staying Positive documentary will screen at the Sie Film Center in Denver on Thursday at 7 p.m. 

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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