Portraits of Commitment: New face of HIV/AIDS in Asia

Sabina Yeasmin Putul, photo by Shahidul Alam

Today, 1 December, is World AIDS Day — and this is the new face of HIV/AIDS in Asia.

Well, at least one of 50 faces that my friend Shahidul Alam captured during this year for a UNAIDS-published book titled ‘Portraits of Commitment: Why people become leaders in the AIDS response’.

It profiles men and women who are confronting HIV/AIDS in their lives, professions, work places and families in a variety of ways, each of them remarkable and courageous.

In August 2007, Shahidul held an exhibition in Colombo that featured the South Asians who were photographed for the book. Adorning the cover of the exhibition brochure was this 17-year-old Bangladeshi girl, Sabina Yeasmin Putul.

And this is what Karen Yap Lih Huey of Inter Press Service/TerraViva wrote about her and the exhibition:

Sabina Yeasmin Putul has a silent, determined look with her left fist clenched tight in front of her face – a vision of strength, grace, and resilience all in one.

The 17-year-old Bangladeshi has a lot going for her. Mature beyond her age, she had a good understanding of what she has been through, as a daughter of a sex worker, and of how society sees and judges her. And she probably doesn’t know this – that her struggles inspired respected Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist Shahidul Alam.

“The way she tackles issues regarding her mother and the people around her is powerful. Of course, among other things, she did martial arts and I thought rather than showing child of a sex worker, I photographed her as this powerful woman who came across with powerful ideas,” said Alam, managing director and founder of the Dhaka-based Drik Photo Library.

Posters of her in a martial arts pose was the face for Shahidul’s photography exhibition, a project produced by a team from Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography which is the education wing of the award-winning agency Drik.

Read the article in full on IPS/TerraViva

Read my Aug 2007 blog post on another Portrait of Courage: Rajiv Kafle of Nepal

Photograph by Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majorityworld


4 Responses to “Portraits of Commitment: New face of HIV/AIDS in Asia”

  1. chuls Says:


    See also my blog chulie.wordpress.com for Princey Mangalika one of the sri Lankan’s photographed by Shahidul.

  2. Moving Images Says:

    Thanks Chulie. The exact link for your blog post is: http://chulie.wordpress.com/2007/12/01/positive-strong-princey-mangalika-on-hivaids/

    I once met Princey Mangalika at a media workshop on HIV/AIDS where I critiqued Sri Lankan media’s coverage of HIV. She listened intently, and then shared her own struggles in a calm, measured tone. Most sections of the media have been judgemental and dismissive about persons living with HIV – despite all media sensitising and training given by Panos and others, many journalists seem to still equate HIV infection with ‘sin’. This misplaced moral judgement is clouding not only accurate and balanced reporting, but making life extremely difficult for people living with HIV – they are hounded and harassed at every turn. In such circumstances, no wonder Sri Lanka has very very few people courageous enough to go public with their HIV status. In this respect, Sri Lanka (with its superior human development indicators but inferior human compassion) lags behind other South Asian countries like Nepal. See my March 2007 blog post: https://movingimages.wordpress.com/2007/03/29/ratomates-best-cup-of-tea/

  3. Ruth Villarama Says:

    I agree with you Nalaka.

    We in media has the responsibility to try and link the lives of these people to adapt in their society, and at least eradicate the stigma that AIDS is synonymous to sin.

    In the Philippines, I had the chance to do a story on a ballet dancer living with HIV and a home where people with HIV hide. You really will admire them for their strength but despite these, they are still in hiding.

    Philippines is a Catholic-based country and most people would see it as a moral issue.

    I think dealing with it is also a psychological process. it is not easy but it’s good some sectors helping together to educate people.

  4. David Damario Says:

    The photo of Sabina Yeasmin Putul says a thousand words. The inner strength. The grace and beauty. Truly inspirational. Who knew something positive could come out of such sorrow…amazing.
    Thank you Nalaka for sharing this.

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