It is the 30 of November and a journalist has left several urgent messages because  she needs a positive person to be interviewed for a prime time TV programme on World AIDS Day. I give her a ring.

–          Hello I am Silvia, I am HIV positive.  I was told you need somebody to interview tomorrow.

–          Yes thank you for calling me back. I need some background information.

–          Sure…

–          How did you catch HIV?


( long pause)


–          If I told you I got HIV from my husband, or if I told you I got HIV from injecting drugs, or that it was a one night stand, or maybe that I became HIV positive because my mum was positive… what difference would it make? I mean…  after 30 years…. we all know how HIV is transmitted, right?

The journalist moves on to the next few questions. Before hanging up she tells me she needs to speak to a producer and she will let me know  within next 20 minutes if I will be interviewed the following day.

Nobody called me back.


7 thoughts on “The journalist and I

  1. Good on you Silvia, you pre-emptied all her interview questions and put her where she needs to be – after 30 years of HIV!! next time tell the journo to google hiv transmission for background info!

  2. Ah I thought I had to be polite… But next time I will tell them: google it! Well I don’t think I will ever get an interview on TV!

  3. Always the same old story … anywhere in the world.
    Just want to hear what suits them.
    Having the wrenching testimony of someone and judge his past, but do not want to know anything about the disease, you know …. does not concern them!
    Again, this is discrimination.
    In interviews they do not allow a person with HIV to tell what he wants, must drive or silence.

    You did well not to stoop to this blackmail.

    Sempre la solita vecchia storia…ovunque nel mondo.
    Vogliono sentire quello solo che fa comodo.
    Avere la testimonianza strappalacrime di qualcuno e giudicare il suo vissuto, ma non vogliono sapere nulla sulla malattia, sai…. non li riguarda!
    Anche questa è discriminazione.
    Nelle interviste non permettono a una persona con hiv di dire quello che vuole, devono pilotarla oppure silenzio.

    Hai fatto bene a non piegarti a questo ricatto.
    Un abbraccio
    Silvia Bandini

  4. Its totally awful isn’t it Silvia P? I only use my story do I can get listened too and get on the media and just to get heard.

    If I don’t they I know they will not want to know??

    And I have got it out here for 3 years of WAD but next year I doubt any media will want to know as once your story has been told, you are old news and no one wants to know . But so far they use me and I use them

    But their/the media’s agenda is not remotely mine – I am not stupid I just use them and they me

    and its total/utter c**p.~ but my personal story – is one that will catch their own agenda/angle so I use it. Maybe it reinforces stereotypes but it is my story and totaly true and it is all I have to be heard, so I use it – I use it at every opportunity offered!!!!!!!

    You may think I should not try to use it, that I should just say – what does my own story matter ? And that it reinforces their stereotypes? Even though it is true and it is what happened to me and so many women who got HIV from long term relationships, but yes it reinforces their angle and stereotypes – and I am fully aware of that as I am pretty intelligent

    So maybe then I should accept that I may be reinforcing stuff and I will not have the opportunity to be heard ? But for now, while I can use my sorry , I have chosen otherwise.

    But yes it is rubbish/awful and so not right in one way, but in another I am just an ordinary woman living with HIV using anything I have to get heard , and I am in my late 50s have lived through many campaigns including early feminism without which none of us would have any voice …….

    And sometimes , you just use what you have , just to get heard and the more that do , regardless of intellectual principles….the better?

    But at least you have a paid job in the HIV field, recognition and opportunities to be heard and make a difference in other ways .

    While others like me that so want to make a difference will never have this outlet that you have .

    That however much we so want to make a difference we do not have any chance of paid employment, due to lack of opportunity, skills or like in my case due also to the remote place we live do not have chance of true empowerment much less employment in this field,

    So we can only do so by touting our story …………….. and could only ever remotely dream of having the opportunities you do.

    So while I take your point and think it stinks…..please take no notice, if one jorno does not want to listen, for you there will always be other opportunities – you have many other ways of being heard that many of us do not

    It is all c**p re the media – we all know this – but we all do what we can in our own way. At least you , unlike me, can tell this jorno how it is and do not have to prostitute and tout your HIV story just to try to get the message out as you have other and probably better means to raise awareness and get the word out than I do right now nor ever will.

  5. Basically – unless they are asking you to go on prime TV as an ‘expert’ or a HIV org employee /agony aunt/GP/HIV consultant/ advisor to THT etc whatever …………….they only ever want you for your story. That is their handle and all you have as someone living with HIV, This is all you have to offer the media

    You can either refuse to engage in this stereotypcal nonsense
    Or just go with it in the hope you can get during the course of the interview or whatever on TV or whatever, just a snippit of something that will be meaningfull ‘out there’ and get through to someone and break the sterotypes.~~

    I may be fooling my self,
    But despite understand exactly where you are coming from – I was not born yesterday and have campaigned for so many issues on the media for many years, HIV being only one –

    So that is what I tried to do since I found I was living with HIV to do in a few national newspapers, on local radio and TV, channel 4, on Embarrishing Bodies and on this WAD on This Morning.

    And given the opportunity – which I doubt will happen again now as they have had my story………..hewed me up ansd spat me out!!

    – I will, if ever asked, do it again and every time

    If it was in your opinion that of other activists a waste of my time , only reinforcing sterotypes and not a valid thing to do?

    Please be honest and tell me that . At least let me say why I did/ and do it?

    It may not stop me trying to do it, but I would like to know what those of you, especially those like yourself that I have met in person ‘truly’ think of my efforts?

  6. Some things just never change! Even if I am not asked ‘how did you get HIV’ it is so obvious that it is the question they really want to pose … good on you for stopping her in her tracks! Maybe you should have scared her witless and said you got it from drinking tap water LOL!!

  7. Silvia thatnks for your comments, yes certain things never change.

    @ Veritee. I think what you do is fantastic, and it takes a great courage. Your story is your story and you have to tell it as it is. You have told it with dignity and I respect you for that. I think that the more visibilty people with HIV have the better. So I only have a positive judgement on what you do. The message that women over fifty, married women, get HIV is definetlly important and I am glad that you can divulge it so well.

    On my side I have become an activist to ensure that people like me can be treted with dignity and respect, no matter how they aquired HIV. I am not so interested in prevention, I know is is important, and I hope that people will stop aquiring HIV, but it is not the focus of my activism. Some of us have HIV and we will have to live with it the rest of our lives. So does it matter how we got it? Does it matter that some of us are queer, black, women, poor, or pushed at the margin of the locations of power for a combination of those reasons? What needs to happen for us who are marginalized on so many grounds to move to a position of power, to be respected, to have easier lives?

    This is not the first time that a journalist turns me down, but I really feel my story is not that relevant. It is only relevant so that they can put us in some comfortable box labelled ‘Other’.

    I can assure you I feel very privileged to have the job I do, and am very grateful. I try to do the best I can, even if it never seems enough. Anyway who knows for how long I will have it in the present economic atmosphere things don’t look too solid….

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