Lifeboat: A Woman’s Guide to HIV-Positive Motherhood

Andrea Lynch, RH Reality Check, Nicaragua & England on February 26, 2007 – 8:50am

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There are 19 million women worldwide currently living with HIV/AIDS, but living with HIV is just one aspect of these women’s lives. Reproductive rights organizations like Ipas and HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations like the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS have been working for years to raise awareness of the complexity of HIV-positive women’s sexual and reproductive realities, and a new project called Lifeboat offers a unique space to challenge stereotypes about HIV-positive women’s lives. Specifically, Lifeboat seeks to shed light on the reality of HIV-positive motherhood, using film to present compelling, complex images of mothers living with HIV/AIDS.

According to UNAIDS, of the 200 million women who become pregnant every year, roughly 2.5 million are HIV-positive. In some countries in southern Africa, where the pandemic is most widespread, over a third of pregnant women are living with HIV/AIDS. Across the developing world, HIV-positive women—like all women—struggle to find dignity amidst pervasive violations of their sexual and reproductive rights. And despite strong anti-discrimination laws and decades of awareness-raising, here in the United States, HIV-positive pregnant women continue to face discrimination within the health system, as Scott Swenson reported earlier this month.

The obstacles to achieving health, dignity, and well-being faced by HIV-positive women worldwide are formidable to say the least, but that is only part of these women’s stories. All over the world, HIV-positive women continue to grow, live, and contribute to their communities and their families. By sharing these women’s stories through short films, Lifeboat seeks to shatter the stigma and the stereotypes surrounding HIV/AIDS, sex, pregnancy, and motherhood, focusing instead on “the human experiences of wanting, having, loving, and raising children in a positive home.” For example, “Lullaby” features two teenagers talking about the loving, happy childhood that their HIV-positive mother has given them. “True Love” focuses on a Nigerian couple coming to grips with the knowledge that they are both HIV-positive, and that they are expecting a child. Both films have been screened at numerous conferences on HIV/AIDS, as well as in communities and healthcare settings. They will soon be available online. For more information, visit Lifeboat.


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