23 July 2009

Featured Podcast : BBC World Service Documentary – Death Diminishes Me

Five men from New Zealand paint a soundscape of memory, loss and regret as suffered by those living with HIV. They relate stories of loneliness and deep isolation - as most HIV positive Kiwis don't know anyone else with the virus.

Visit the page at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/documentaries/2009/07/000000_global_perspective_death_diminishes.shtml

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Fifteen funerals within five years – that's the situation Shane found himself in the early 1990s when his friends started dying from AIDS related illnesses.

Shane is one of five HIV positive men from New Zealand who share their personal reflections and stories in Death Diminishes Me as they work towards self-acceptance.

The men have been living with HIV for over 20 years - coping with both the physical and psychological implications. Some of the shared experiences include the dramatic loss of confidence, having to 'come out' a second time and dealing with the stigma of being diagnosed HIV positive. "Who do I tell, what do I tell?" asks Shane.

"Through their openness we begin to glimpse unspoken truths about how homosexuality and HIV are dealt with in New Zealand society," says producer Gareth Watkins.

Death Diminishes Me asks the listener to consider what isolates people from, and what connects them to their friends, family and each other.

Symbol of hope

Throughout the work we hear excerpts from Michael Parmenter's A Long Undressing - an autobiographical theatre/dance-work that premiered in 1995 to great acclaim:

"We use memory as a way of reclaiming what has been taken away. To value even the feeling of loss, is to value life itself - and so to begin to live again"

Prose, interview and reflection all form the foreground, while fragments of half-remembered sounds form the background - a school yard, a summer's day, the beep-beep-beep of a machine that sustains life.

"Even though there is a lot of apparent darkness in Death Diminishes Me, there's also a lot of burning hope" says Gareth.

"The very fact that most of these men are still here after 20 years with HIV is a strong symbol of hope. The fact that they have coped and become stronger while watching friends and loved-ones die. The fact that they still stand tall is a testament to their will and hope to live.

"Ultimately death does not diminish us. It makes us, and those around us have greater insight into who and what we are."

First broadcast on Friday 17 July 2009

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