Thursday, December 10, 2009

POSITIVELY ALIVE - HIV Web based Support group for gay men in South Africa

Positively Alive (previously called Jozi Poz Dudes) was created in October 2008 with the aim to provide a safe platform for HIV+ gay men to share experiences and support each other in living healthy responsible lives while coming to terms with their HIV status. Since its creation the site has grown, mostly by word of mouth, to over 100 members with new members joining the site weekly. Although initially started in Johannesburg the site has a large number of members from the Greater Gauteng Province.

Membership is not only limited to Gauteng all HIV+ gay man from South Africa are welcome to join the site.

This internet site is intended to provide a safe space for positive gay men where they can feel confident in knowing that everybody on the site is in the same boat, says Alan Brand, the site administrator.

Membership of the site is free and by invitation only to protect the confidentiality and privacy of members. The site cannot be accessed through search engines such as Google, etc. The site can only be accessed after receiving a personal invitation sent to a legitimate e-mail address. Privacy is protected through the creation of personal user names and passwords.

Since being diagnosed HIV+ in 1997, Alan lives openly with his HIV status and is dedicated to making a difference by breaking the silence and changing the mindset of those he comes into contact with.

Key to the success of the site has been the creation of strictly enforced rules aimed at ensuring that the site does not become simply a new internet gay man’s dating service. POSITIVELY ALIVE is a support site for HIV+ gay men. Although new relationships and romantic liaisons are encouraged this is not the main aim of this site. Many other sites are out there for this purpose.

Confidentially is always respected and protected.

POSITIVELY ALIVE provides a support environment without prejudice or judgment for HIV positive gay men to find love and care and to be 100% true to themselves. Positive gay men no longer need to try to handle their HIV status in isolation. The site provides the space to grow and develop without being forced into disclosure or participate in activities they are not comfortable with.


As an extension of the support provided through the internet based website, members of the site are invited to join the support group sessions. These workshops are free and attendance is only for members. These support group sessions are aimed at providing a safe and friendly environment for members to meet and share their feelings, emotions, concerns and joys and just have an opportunity to be with others that are in the same situation as themselves. Although a key reason for the support group sessions is for members to personally interact with each other the sessions do have a theme and a learning component. While members share their experiences of being on treatment, nutritional supplement use and much more, the learning is only one component. The greatest gift of the support group sessions is the love care and support freely given and shared between the members.

Coming to terms with ones HIV status is a key component to prevention the spread of HIV, says Alan. While remaining in fear and silence one is unable to face issues such as disclosure to sexual partners and hence unable to take action and make sound responsible choices. Providing HIV gay men with a platform to express these feeling where they can meet other gay men who have overcome their HIV status and are living healthy and responsible lives will greatly assist the gay community of South Africa to come to terms with the reality of HIV. A recent study among gay men in South Africa found that over half the participants (57%) reported that they “knew” their HIV status, but only two-thirds of those who knew their status has disclosed their status to a sexual partner in the past year. Alan believes that creating open forums for gay men in South Africa to face up to the reality of HIV will help reduce this type of behaviour.

Contact Alan via e-mail at should you wish to join the site. Alternatively visit for more details regarding the website.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

David Vance's Prints
Conveys a sense of beauty that is immortal and innocent. One senses that the soul of David Vance is more important to the photograph than the camera...
A quiet strength in interwoven with even the softest of his studies of the female form. A certain delicay is sensed in his powerful portfolio of the male nude.
Of itallian decent, David Vance has been surrounded by the atmosphere of his heritage since childhood. The art, the sculpture, the misic, the litrature and cuisine of his world exposed him at an early age to the classic of observing life. He sees beauty through the eyes of his ancestors, and creates beauty with their same vision.

Friday, October 16, 2009



The question is who must do the telling and who must do the asking? Or who is more responsible for stopping the spread of HIV is it all up to the HIV infected person or does the HIV negative person also have equal responsibility.

I wish to put forward that both have equal responsibility. Neither one more than the other. An HIV+ person that knows their status is in a more empowered position to ensure that they protect others. Often the "HIV-" person has never even been tested or has not been tested for years and yet engages in unprotected sex. Ask them if they are positive and they say NO. This type of ignorance is bliss, syndrome is madness! And then have you not heard someone asking a casual partner the question; "Are you clean? What the hell does that mean?? Yes I shower twice a day I am spotlessly CLEAN!!!

Saying I am negative when I have never had an HIV test is as much a lie as saying I am negative when I know I am positive.

So both HIV+ individuals need to take action to stop spreading the virus. Nobody in South Africa can expect to have unprotected sex and think that they are not at risk of becoming infected. South Africa has over 6million HIV+ infected people.What are your thoughts on this issue?? Add to the discussion as the debate will always help others to think and decide on the action they should take to become part of the solution and not blindly and blissfully ignore that it exists.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World AIDS Day – Edition - The Ripple Effect
1 December 2009
Guest Editors – Editorial
Welcome to this bumper World AIDS Day edition of the Ripple Effect brought to you in association with The World AIDS Campaign. This special issue not only provides relevant HIV and AIDS information and articles with details on new developments in the war on HIV and AIDS but is a comprehensive HIV training and information resource.

The World AIDS Campaign theme for 2009/2010 is “Universal Access and Human Rights” as 2010 will be a milestone for the Millennium Development Goals, and aims to encourage high level review of what has, and has not, been accomplished in the aim to achieve access for all to essential care by 2010.
As this is the third year that I am privileged to be the guest editor of the World AIDS Day edition I cannot help but reflect on previous messages and campaigns and notice that there appears to be a number of campaigns that although highly controversial are challenging the methodology and thoughts of previous campaigns.
On Tuesday 6 October 2009, the Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, when releasing the results of the 2008 HIV antenatal survey in Pretoria warned that the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women is still unacceptably high and that South Africa would be in “big trouble” if it did not take drastic measures to counter the pandemic.
The prevalence of HIV infections among pregnant women tested was 29.3%, an increase on the 28% antenatal prevalence survey figures released in 2008.
It is very clear that this epidemic is having a huge impact on the health system in South Africa.
A more aggressive prevention campaign is needed while at the same time HIV awareness champions are faced with huge AIDS fatigue when it comes to the messages used to raise awareness of HIV and the killer syndrome it causes, called AIDS.
More of the same is simply not an option any more …it has not worked so far and hence why should one consider that it will in the future. HIV remains incurable but it would be foolish to put forward that nothing has changed in our approach and in our understanding around the science and treatment of the virus. Neither would it be correct to assume that people have the same attitudes they had in the 80’s. It is time to stop the “wishy washy” campaigns filled with an over sensitive approach in fear of offending someone. I have been challenged by a few campaigns we have decided to include in this edition, not because they are polite and sensitive but because they will provoke feelings, emotions and debate.
The “Stop the Villain”, “AIDS is a Mass Murderer” or “SSyney” campaigns are amongst those that will not go unnoticed and might offend someone. Yet, as a person who has been living with HIV for 13 Years, I do not think that I am a villain or a mass murderer. These messages are aimed at a new innovative and fresh approach to making people aware that we still have a deadly virus in our midst. In the same way that I am fighting the virus in my body with the use of anti retroviral treatment, nutrition, treatment of opportunistic infections, support and care we all need to take action that will stop the virus from spreading. HIV is not my friend, it is an uninvited guest and I aim to stop this villain from simply taking over and ending my life. Taking the focus off the infected person and placing it squarely on the culprit THE HI VIRUS seems perhaps to be the correct approach. People are not the villains or the problem; it is the virus that is the problem. We all need to take appropriate action as through our denial we are directly supporting and enabling the virus to continue on its destructive path.
We need to start talking boldly about this virus. Education is the key. The enemy is the virus and this enemy needs to be stopped at ANY cost and the only person that can do this is YOU and ME.
Using the correct language is important in awareness campaigns (read the Training Material on page 19) but it is also important that we unite and name the Human Immune Deficiency Virus for what it is; it is a villain and a mass murderer.
At the same time together and individually we can all play a proactive role to rule out stigma, discrimination and victimisation against those that are infected by the virus. They are not our enemy, the virus is. Lets us be vocal in our demands as we fight for the universal access to treatment, equality, human rights and dignity for all HIV infected people.
Alan Brand
World AIDS Day – 2009

You Can Heal Your Life

You Can Heal Your Life
I am willing to change!I am willing to release my old patterns and negative beliefs.
The Power that created me has given me the power to create my new life.
I chose positive fulfilling new thoughts.
Beginning now, right here, right now!

Self:I am one with the power that created me.
And this power has given me the power to create my own circumstances.
I am loving and lovable and I find love everywhere.
All is well in my world.

Relationships:I live in harmony and balance with everyone I know.
I love myself therefore I attract loving people into my life
I release the past and I am free to love fully in the present.

Health and Wellness:I listen with love to my bodies messages.
I am healthy, whole and complete.
I feel the vibrant wellness in my body increase everyday.

Prosperity:I am blessed beyond my fondest dreams.
I am one with the creative power of the universe, and this connection brings me fulfilment and abundance.
I learn from every experience and everything I touch is a success.

Work:I work at a job I truly love.
I work with people I love, and who love and respect me.
I express myself creatively through my work, and I earn a good income doing it.

From the Book and Movie by; Louise L. Hay “you can Heal your Life”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alan at Metropolitan Head Office - Cape Town

Positive Affirmations:

What you think and say and send out into the universe determines who you are and what you will experience in life.

Using affirmations (i.e. saying positive things about yourself) is a practical and useful way of doing this. In my own case, I had to say to myself over and over again that I am a perfect creation, that God had not made a mistake in creating me. As a woman, it may involve saying that you are strong and loving, and that you deserve the best that life has to offer. There is more to it, however, than just saying these words; you must say them so many times that you truly begin to believe them.

When you awake in the morning, look yourself in a mirror and say, “For today I am perfect, whole and complete, I am all I need to be, for today.” Remember that loving yourself and seeing yourself as perfect goes against much that society tends to teach us: never use the word, I; it is vain, etc. But there is a huge difference between self-love and selfishness. The need to believe in oneself, and, indeed, to love who and what you are, is essential to your ability to love others. How can you love someone else unless you first love yourself?

This is an ongoing process because, as things change, and you evolve and grow, you continually need to reaffirm to yourself that you are perfect again for today.

It is with a sense of anticipation and aspirations that we enter into relationships with other people. We marry the person we love, hoping that they will bring us happiness. Or we engage in friendships because we want to get something out of them. How often have you heard someone complain that they are the one who does all the loving? “You never tell me that you love me,” they say.

Now, it is without a doubt a fact that we all need to be told that we are loved. But the love you seek should start with yourself. If, instead of entering into a relationship to find happiness with someone else, you acknowledged that the only person who can really make you happy is yourself, you would not be so disappointed when the person you have put all your hopes on ends up being simply human and reveals faults and weaknesses. How many marriages have failed because either one or both partners feels that the other person no longer fulfils them?

Start today by saying: I am all I need to be for today. I am responsible for my own happiness. I am not a victim, I am a unique and powerful, loving human being that is able to give and receive love. I embrace all that life has to offer me.

I have chosen not to allow myself to be a victim of HIV and AIDS. I have released myself from past experiences and forgiven myself for past choices. I am free.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Letter of thanks to the Ripple Effect

Dear Ripple Effect, Life always seems to bring special moments along just when one needs them most. I am reminded of a book that I read when I was still a child about a Jewish family living in Holland during the holocaust and how the two daughters ended up in a concentration camp after their parents where shot dead in front of them. The eldest child clung to two lessons her father had taught her and survived this ordeal through her faith. The first teaching was that often when things seems really difficult and times are hard and we just cannot understand why certain things are happening to us it is only because we cannot see the designers hand at work. Her father went on to explain that as a child when sitting at her mothers feet and watching her mother making a tapestry all she could see as a child was the knots and loose ends at the bottom of the tapestry and it was only when the tapestry was completed and presented that as a child she could see that all the knots and loose ends actually on the top of the tapestry made up a beautiful picture. In the same way we at times cannot see what God can see and can only see from below the knots and loose ends.

Her father also had taught her a further lesson and that was that often we are given strength and encouragement just at the right time often when things are hard and we are feeling like giving up. One day when she was little she kept on begging to be shown and given the tickets for train trip to Amsterdam and her father said that he would only give them to her when the time was right and they needed them on the platform or on request by the train conductor. In the same way that God gives us the strength to endure when we need that strength most.

For me the Special Soul Award comes at such a time. Thank you for this special gesture, which I gladly and humbly accept. The award to me is a gift meant to inspire me to continue and endure as together our souls will, through love for each other, inspire people to remain positively alive as we struggle to live and face the epidemic of HIV and AIDS. Let us all in the spirit of the Ripple Effect continue to commit to random acts of kindness.

Love and Light
Positively Alive

Alan Brand awarded The Ripple Effect Beautiful Soul Award

Alan Brand has been awarded the inaugural Ripple Effect Beautiful Soul Award in recognition of his courage in living openly with HIV and for his tremendous work in HIV/AIDS education. The Beautiful Soul Award is an initiative of Creative Ink, Publisher of the Ripple Effect and Impilo Yetho (wellness information in isiZulu). The Award seeks to give recognition to, highlight and honour the work of people who have shown exceptional commitment and courage and who have become sources of inspiration to us all.

Alan is currently the Group Wellness Manager for the Tsebo Outsourcing Group. He was appointed as the Hospitality and Tourism Sector Representative on the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) in July 2003. Alan’s role as Group Wellness Manager has resulted in him becoming a key player in the fight against HIV/AIDS within the Hospitality Industry, throughout the country as well as in neighbouring countries. He has also project managed the groundbreaking approach to the management of HIV/AIDS through the introduction of a focus on nutritionally enhances food products in the workplace to enhance immune systems and thereby have a positive impact on general wellness.

Alan writes monthly articles for the Ripple Effect. During 2004 he was selected to publish his journals on the Metropolitan website diary project. During 2005 he completed a book detailing his experiences in living and thriving with HIV. This book entitled “Positively Alive”, published and distributed through jacana Media, is currently on the shelves at Exclusive Books.

Link to the Ripple Effect website: HERE

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Positively Alive: Living with HIV and AIDS: A Path to Inner Healing

Author: Alan Brand
Published by: Jacana Media

As a successful, respected and widely accomplished businessman, the last thing Alan Brand expected was to be diagnosed as HIV positive. Positively Alive chronicles Alan's tremendous journey with HIV through vivid and personal journals where his revitalized holistic approach to health became so successful that when he finally divulged his status he had trouble convincing people that he was in fact HIV positive. Breaking the silence about his status helped Alan to turn his HIV status into a positive force in transforming his life and the lives of others.

Positively Alive chronicles Alan's tremendous journey with HIV through vivid and personal journals where his revitalized holistic approach to health became so successful that when he finally divulged his status he had trouble convincing people that he was in fact HIV positive. Breaking the silence about his status helped Alan to turn his HIV status into a positive force in transforming his life and the lives of others.

In writing, Positively Alive, Alan has revealed an intimate and compelling personal account of life with HIV. He shares practical and emotional steps that have helped him live positively with HIV in a rousing account that is both readable and remarkable and gives advice to those who are HIV positive and to their family, friends and caregivers on how to live positively and productively with HIV.

"In 1997 I left my doctors rooms in a state of shock. She had just told me that I was HIV positive. On that day a journey of discovery started.

I remember trying to think what I knew about HIV and found it was very little. One thing, and the only thing I could think of at the time was that I knew for certain I was going to die of AIDS, how long did I have?

I decided to remain silent about my status until I was ready to deal with it. I knew I needed information but didn't know where to find it. Information about HIV/AIDS was mostly about prevention and was based on frightening people into using condoms. I already knew I should have practiced safe sex. I was well informed about the risk of HIV and that I would die of AIDS. This information was useless at this point of my life. But every poster and pamphlet seems intent on propagating this type of fear-based information. Information about living with HIV was difficult to attain. I felt that if I asked for help, people would suspect that I had HIV.

In 1999 I had my CD4 count done, it was discovered that my CD4 had dropped to 236 and I was told that I must start antiretroviral therapy or I would be dead within 18 months. The shock of this news is hard to describe, I guess anger was my first response. My heart cried out in anger:

'Who is this doctor, is he God that he knows how long I have?'

That was the day that things really started to change. Six weeks after changing my attitude and beginning to take charge of the situation I had my CD4 count done and it had recovered to 549. The viral load had also dropped to undetectable levels. That was in January 2000 and at the time I managed to maintain my CD4 and my health without the use of antiretroviral therapy."

Link to publishers webpage: HERE
Link to the above book on the web: HERE