KOREA, South Korea—A KOREAN karate instructor is sharing stories about the devastating consequences of living with HIV.
As she tells the stories, the instructor, whose name we are not using, describes her daily life as she struggles with both physical and mental health problems.
Her story, told in a new video, begins with the devastating news that she will die.
The video, titled “HIV, My Life,” is an immersive journey that features a young karate black belt, a man who trains with karate as a part of his day job, and the story of a young girl who has been battling HIV for decades.
KOREANS, who make up the world’s third largest population of HIV-positive people, have been forced to face the stigma that comes with being HIV-negative.
For women, the stigma is compounded by the reality that, while many of us may think of it as an illness, the virus is actually a disease that can kill.
It can also lead to a life of constant anxiety and depression.
KARATE CHAMPIONS, the organization that promotes karate and martial arts in the world, estimates that there are more than 70 million people who are HIV positive.
For KOREAS and KARATA, that number is frightening.
“The situation for many people is really, really bad,” said Kim Jang-hyun, founder and executive director of the KARATA Association of Korea, the country’s largest karate federation.
“There’s a stigma around it.
And people have no choice but to keep on living the same way.”
As the videos below show, the challenges and fears of living in an HIV-infected country are not limited to karate.
The KOREAs health service system is plagued by lack of funding, which means that even with the best of intentions, many of these young instructors struggle to keep their patients safe and out of hospital, where they are treated with dignity and respect.
“The way we see the world is a bit different,” the instructor explains.
“In KORE, there are no barriers to HIV patients.
The doctors can do what they want to do.”
When I ask about the health care system in South Korea, she explains, “In my country, if you go to a hospital, they don’t have AIDS screening.
They just ask you to pay the fee.
I’m not getting paid to die.”
KARATE KIDS are getting their share of help from the KOREans, who provide funding and medical care to people living with the virus.
“Many of our kids are just so overwhelmed by the medical needs and the financial difficulties that they’re having,” the woman in the video, named Kim, says.
She goes on to describe how she, her husband, and their five children, have gone from living paycheck to paycheck.
Kim says they had no income and no savings.
After years of being on the street, she was able to secure a job at a coffee shop and make enough money to buy a new set of clothes.
The only thing that kept her from getting into debt was a pair of scissors.
In the video she also describes how she and her husband have been struggling to pay their bills, and how they often had to wait days or weeks for the utilities to be paid.
The videos below highlight some of the challenges of living HIV-free in South Korean society, and a handful of stories from the lives of these children.
(WARNING: Some may find the videos disturbing.)
The most striking aspect of the videos is that they are narrated by a young woman, who, despite the age of the participants, is very young and very strong.
Her voice is gentle and genuine, and she’s a great example for young people to follow.
Korean karate students train in the United States, and Kim says that they have been able to learn karate by being around other karate instructors.
Even though the stories are heartbreaking, Kim also encourages people to consider the many other challenges facing people living HIV positive and those who are not.
A woman in KORE as young as 10 years old attends a karate class in her home in Seoul, South America. “
KARATA KIDS, KARATS, and all karate kids, learn from these stories and continue to do our best to provide health care, housing, and education to those living with these diseases.”
A woman in KORE as young as 10 years old attends a karate class in her home in Seoul, South America.
(Photo by Yoon Sang-woo)