Botswana Holds Beauty Pageant for HIV-Positive Women To Combat Stigma Associated With Disease
Fourteen HIV-positive Botswanan women on Saturday competed in the country's second annual Miss HIV Stigma-Free pageant, which is aimed at reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. Pageant organizer Kesego Basha, who is HIV-positive, said that her own experiences as an HIV-positive woman inspired her to start the pageant. Organizers of the pageant -- which had an audience of about 1,000 -- said they hoped the pageant would show that being HIV-positive does not necessarily prevent a woman from being "vibrant and beautiful," according to the AP/Newsday. In addition to competing in evening gown, traditional clothing and talent portions, the contestants also shared with the audience their own stories about being HIV-positive. One woman said that she contemplated suicide after testing positive. Kgalalelo Ntsepe, the 31-year-old winner of the pageant, urged other HIV-positive people to begin taking antiretroviral drugs as soon as possible and described how the drugs had transformed her "from bone-thin and sickly to robust and healthy," according to the AP/Newsday. Ntsepe, who is a counselor for HIV-positive youth, said she felt "honored" to win the contest, adding, "I'm going to go around the country to talk to people to say that (being) an HIV-positive person does not mean you have done something wrong. You are still who you are." Botswana has the highest HIV prevalence in the world; approximately 38% of people in the country are HIV-positive, according to the AP/Newsday (Motseta, AP/Long Island Newsday, 9/7).
Additional information on AIDS in Botswana is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.