The HIV/AIDS virus is much more than just a physically debilitating disease.
I do not mean to understate the tole it takes on the human body. You can see the damage as you walk through the IDI clinic; patients are weak and vulnerable, their bodies brittle and their immune systems frail.
But HIV/AIDS also weakens the mind and the heart. A positive diagnosis can lead to depression. It can end one's motivation to work, to learn, to provide for a family, and most of all, to just keep going. When all you can think about is getting sick, you get sicker.
Or, it can have the opposite effect. It can motivate you to overcome your diagnosis, rise above it, and teach others to do the same.
That's the approach taken by the IDI singing and theater group, whose performance I watched today. These ten individuals (there are 25 total, comprising two groups), use song, dance, and drama to motivate themselves and others to live healthy lives and take care of themselves and their loved ones.
The troupe started with a song about disclosure, encouraging the 50 or so audience members to be honest with their lovers and loved ones about their positive diagnosis. Then, another song about the benefits of modern medicine, pushing them to continue visiting the clinic and refilling their prescriptions. Afterwards, one by one, the members of the group introduced themselves, and a few told the story of when they found out they were HIV positive and how IDI has helped them stay healthy. Finally, one last song about practicing safe sex and abstaining from alcohol and other dangerous substances.
The audience clapped and cheered, and the members of the troupe smiled and bowed proudly. The sense of pride and accomplishment on their faces was palpable; they rehearse twice a week, and it shows. Songs were pitch perfect, dance steps were highly choreographed and in unison. Their performance was significant not only for the lessons imparted to the audience, but because of the feeling of purpose and self-worth it gave the members of the troupe.
Every singer has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, a disease with no known cure. They could have easily chosen to curl up and wait for the disease to break down their bodies.
Instead, they sing.