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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 16:59 GMT
Hanah: 'Brazil gives you the basics'
Living Positive follows six HIV-positive people, each of them on the same day, in six different parts of the world.

Thursday, 1 December 2005
2100 GMT on BBC Two

Hanah is a Brazilian drag queen artist who discovered she was HIV positive in 1992.

"I went along with a friend of mine who was very ill. A very badly trained nurse said to him that if he'd received a telegram from the hospital, it was possibly because he had Aids.

To offer her friend some moral support, Hanah said she would take the test again too.

But the results were not as they had expected.

"His came out negative and mine came out positive. That's how I discovered I was HIV positive."

Although she had always practised safe sex from a young age, she believes she had most likely become infected by a previous partner when the condom broke.


Hanah went from hospital to hospital in search of treatment, but instead found that discrimination was rife among medical staff. One doctor even refused to touch her.

Eventually she found both companionship and treatment with a doctor.

Though Hanah was an openly gay man at the time, she was not a transvestite. But after a string of failed relationships, she decided to make the transition.
One thing that would make me very happy would be to be loved

"I had pushed the boat out to try and achieve a more masculine appearance but it didn't seem to have pleased anyone, so I decided to assume a feminine identity 24 hours a day."

Although receiving a great deal of support from friends, Hanah does not feel loved.

She has been unable to maintain a loving relationship. As a result she lacks motivation and suffers from depression.

"One thing that would make me very happy would be to be loved, to be cherished, desired. To have a husband who loves me as I am."

She has suffered many tragic events in her life.

Her father committed suicide after finding out he was HIV positive, her first boyfriend died on her birthday and her mother - who had adopted her from a young age - died at the same time as her husband left her.

Hanah was left very much alone. She even tried to kill herself by hiring a hitman.

Raising awareness

Despite her depression and these tragic events, she actively campaigns and educates people about Aids in various ways.

What is the point of having medication but not having food to eat?

At the time of her diagnosis she was already working with an association for Aids in Rio and had organised events in nightclubs to raise awareness and funds to combat the spread of the virus.

She currently works as a cabaret singer and uses her performances to help educate people about HIV.

Hanah is the president of the Astra, Rio, a transgender association which helps protect homosexuals and transvestites and conducts seminars at a cultural centre to talk to teachers and students about gender awareness.

She also works closely with the Ministry of Child Welfare by watching out for minors working in prostitution and handing out condoms in the red light district areas.

Although she acknowledges that the Brazilian government do provide free anti-retroviral treatment, she feels strongly that providing the drugs alone is not enough.

"What is the point of having medication but not having food to eat? How are you going to take medication if you don't have rice and beans? If you don't have a roof over your head? If your mental health is completely ruined?

"Brazil is not as good as it seems. Brazil gives you the basics."

Living Positive was broadcast on Thursday, 1 December, 2005 on BBC Two at 2100 GMT.

A debate featuring the six people filmed for the programme was broadcast on Friday, 2 December, 2005 on BBC Four at 1900 GMT.

Country profile: Brazil
13 Aug 05 |  Country profiles


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