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In search of a hero

JOBURG - The Search for the Next Positive Hero South Africa launched on 1 December and gave the HIV epidemic a massive shot of hope.

This initiative is part of the Change the Stigma project, which is spearheaded by Charles Jacobs and is supported by Trevor Kleinhans.

In 2011, Charles Jacobs was nominated as a finalist in the Mr Gay South Africa competition, and made history by taking a courageous step. Having lived with the HIV virus for nine years, he finally made the bold move to disclose his status publicly. This was the first time any finalist had done so; he challenged the stigma surrounding HIV/Aids head-on.

“This is not a beauty pageant,” said Jacobs. “It is the exact opposite. It’s about sharing your journey that will help others accept who they are. It is about moving away from feeding HIV with fear, and filling it with hope instead.”

Trevor Kleinhans, the internationally-recognised author of Secrets Make You Sick, is using his public speaking and press experience on the subjects of HIV, gay rights, sexual abuse and drug abuse to spread the message of hope. “Disclosing one’s HIV-positive status is an immensely powerful act,” he said.

“In one moment it takes everything negative that society assumes about the disease and turns it on it’s head. To see a person full of vitality openly sharing their story, for others who are afraid of the judgment of friends, family and the public, is quite simply life changing.”

On World Aids Day, 1 December last year, contestants entered the search and the public is now able to vote for their favourite Positive Hero.

Once finalists are selected in March, 201 finalists will share their personal HIV journey via a self-made video. They will then select their own South African HIV charity or non-profit organisation and create an awareness and fundraising project. Through this, finalists will dynamically address misconceptions about people living with HIV.

Various prizes are on offer for top-placing participants. The new Positive Hero will receive a full life coaching course from New Insights Africa valued at R18 000, empowering him or her to continue to change lives and spread the message of hope.

Details: www.changethestigmaproject.com

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