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June 11, 1997

For those who feel ostracized or isolated by their communities, the Internet can represent a safe haven. The Body, an extensive resource of information on HIV and AIDS, is such a haven for victims of this disease.

At The Body, people are encouraged to tell their stories, share their knowledge, and seek advice in the "Connecting to Others" forum. Posts range from anguished pleas for help from people who have just discovered that they're HIV-positive to questions about the best alternative treatments for the disease to personal ads from those looking for an HIV-positive companion. Though some include their names, addresses, or e-mail addresses in their posts, the potential for anonymity online is clearly what draws many people to the forum. Those who have not been able to confide in their friends and family can come here for comfort and advice.

bodylft pictureThe Body is much more than a place where people can come to help deal with the emotional effects of HIV and AIDS, however. Experts are on hand to answer questions on discrimination in the workplace and the newest methods of treatment. Users are kept up to date on the government's AIDS initiatives (or lack thereof) and are encouraged to become politically active in support of the cause.

The site also offers visitors the chance to celebrate the lives of those who are ill or have died. The AIDS Memorial is full of remembrances of lost friends and family. At the Loel Poor photo exhibit, photographs and essays on HIV and AIDS patients at various stages of the disease's development, young and old, are powerful reminders of the effects of AIDS and also of the strength of many of its victims. Though the quality of the photographs on the site is poor, the images and words are haunting.

Much of The Body's content is focused less on mourning those who have died than on how patients can control their disease. One man who told his story in "Connecting to Others" wrote: "Remember, having HIV in 1997 is not like having it even two years ago. There is lots of reason for hope...." A resource like The Body helps make that hope seem justified.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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