Positive Heroes help fight Aids stigma

CAPE Town models took to the ramp as part of a campaign to fight the stigma around HIV and Aids.

The glamorous show, staged in a refurbished train station by the city in partnership with non-profit organisation Positive Heroes, was hosted by Mr South Africa 2010 Denver Burns.

Positive Heroes aims to raise the profile of South Africans living with HIV, dispel stigmas and encourage HIV-positive people to manage the disease and live full, rewarding lives.

Model Vincent Andrews, who has been in the industry for 10 years, urged people to go for testing in order to know their HIV status.

"Being HIV positive is not a death sentence. If we stand together we can combat Aids," he said.

Reginald Onowoode, who has been modelling for the past eight years, said that he chose to participate in the event "because it is important to give back to the community."

Reon van Dyk, co-founder of Positive Heroes, said most people still did not believe that if they went on anti-retroviral treatment they could live long and normal lives.

Positive Hero and accomplished marathon runner and mountaineer Evelina Tshabalala of the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Hout Bay said: "It's better to know your status sooner than later."

Tshabalala, who disclosed her status more than 10 years ago, said sport and exercise could help HIV-positive people stay fit.

She said she helped youngsters stay off the streets by involving them in athletics.

"The ultra-marathon team is out to prove that HIV-positive diagnosis is not a valid reason to give up living. HIV-positive people can live extraordinary lives just like everyone else," Positive Heroes programme manager Sue Wildish said.